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July 22, 2021 11:53 am

Director of Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Fired Over Past Jokes About Holocaust

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The Olympic rings are seen on a basketball during a training session. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Boyers.

Japanese comedian Kentaro Kobayashi has been fired from his position as show director of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony over past jokes that he made about the Holocaust, the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced on Thursday.

Kobayashi, 48, who was previously part of a comedy duo called Ramens, mocked the mass murder of Jews by Nazi forces during World War II in a 1998 comedy act, where he said, “Let’s play Holocaust,” according to Japanese media reports.

The Daily Beast reported that he joked about the Holocaust as a “let’s massacre Jewish people game,” and the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) cited other “malicious and antisemitic jokes” and “distasteful jokes about disabled individuals.”

“Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said SWC Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. “The Nazi regime also gassed Germans with disabilities. Any association of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics.”

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In a press briefing, Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said she learned about Kobayashi’s offensive jokes on Tuesday morning and “as soon as possible we decided we will have to address the issue, and we decided on the dismissal.” She said she regretted that it took Olympic organizers so long to fire the comedian, and that she and other members of the Olympic planning commission would “review the entire program” of the opening ceremony on Thursday, the day before it is scheduled to take place.

“I’ll have to make sure first of all to establish a structure of operations so that we will never trouble any more people,” Hashimoto explained, according to the New York Times’ Motoko Rich.

The opening ceremony of the Olympics had already faced several controversies, with Japanese composer Keigo Oyamada stepping down from participating in the event this week after reports surfaced in which he admitted to bullying a disabled boy. A musical piece he composed for the ceremony was also dropped.

In March, the opening ceremony’s creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned after it was revealed that he planned on dressing a plus-size fashion designer in pig ears for the event and called her an “Olympig” in a pitch for the idea. Additionally, the president of the Olympics organizing body, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, resigned in February after being slammed for making misogynistic comments about “annoying” women.

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