New scandal around the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on Friday: the person responsible for the opening ceremony was dismissed from his post because of a joke on the Holocaust dating back more than twenty years, the organizers announced this Thursday, July 22 .
“We learned that during a past artistic performance”, Kentaro Kobayashi “Had used mocking language about a tragic historical fact”, declared to the press the president of the organizing committee of the Olympic Games, Seiko Hashimoto.
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“The organizing committee has decided to remove Mr. Kobayashi from his post”, she added.
The consequences of his ouster for the opening ceremony on Friday night were still uncertain. “We are still thinking about how we can ensure the ceremony tomorrow”, said Seiko Hashimoto, specifying that she wanted to draw conclusions “As quickly as possible”.
A joke from 1998
In a comedy sketch that aired on video in 1998, Kentaro Kobayashi and another comedian emulated a famous host duo of a Japanese children’s television show.
By pretending to imagine a DIY activity where it would be a question of creating and installing small paper dolls, Kentaro Kobayashi had launched to his partner: “The ones from the last time you said “let’s play the holocaust” “, triggering laughter from the audience.
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The duo then joked by imagining the anger of the producer of the show because of this reference to the Holocaust.
This sketch, “That I had written, contained lines which were extremely inappropriate”, apologized in a statement Kentaro Kobayashi, a personality of the entertainment world in Japan. “It goes back to a time when I couldn’t make people laugh the way I wanted to, and I think I was trying to get people’s attention in a thoughtless way.”, he added.
The composer of the ceremony also sacked
The Simon-Wiesenthal Center for the fight against anti-Semitism and racism condemned in a press release on Wednesday the past remarks of Kentaro Kobayashi, denouncing his “Malicious and anti-Semitic jokes”.
“No one, however creative, has the right to make fun of the victims of the genocide [commis par les] Nazis “, wrote the organization, judging that “Any association of this person with the Tokyo Games would insult the memory of six million Jews and cruelly mock the Paralympic Games”, Kentaro Kobayashi having also joked about people with disabilities in other sketches.
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This dismissal comes just a few days after the resignation of Keigo Oyamada, composer of one of the musical themes of the opening ceremony.
The Japanese artist, known by the pseudonym Cornelius, had been caught up by old interviews he gave in the 1990s, where he lightly recounted how he persecuted disabled classmates in his youth.
In March, another artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Hiroshi Sasaki, had also resigned for having suggested internally to disguise as pig a Japanese actress and star of social networks with assumed curves, Naomi Watanabe.
And in February, the chairman of the organizing committee, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, was also forced to leave office for sexist remarks that sparked a global outcry.
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These cascading scandals have further tarnished the image of the Tokyo Olympics, already unpopular with a large part of the Japanese population who fear that the event will worsen the health crisis in the country.
Due to the restrictions in the face of the pandemic and the closed doors decided for almost all Olympic competitions, barely 950 VIPs are expected to attend the opening ceremony on Friday at the new Olympic stadium in Tokyo.