Updated Jul 22, 2021 - Sports

Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony director fired for Holocaust comments

Olympic rings
A technician works next to Olympic rings at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 22. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

The director of the Games' opening ceremony was fired Thursday over his past comments about the Holocaust during a comedy performance, the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee announced.

Why it matters: Kentaro Kobayashi's removal came a day before the opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games was due to start. Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said at a news conference Thursday, "How we're going to handle the ceremony is currently being discussed."

Driving the news: Hashimoto confirmed earlier Kobayashi's dismissal over a 1998 clip, shared online, in which a man identified as the now-former opening ceremony director jokes about the Nazi atrocity in a skit titled, "Let's play Holocaust."

  • "We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, has used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy," Hashimoto said, per AP.
  • "We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country."

The big picture: The opening ceremony will be a "sobering" performance, Marco Balich, a senior advisor to the Tokyo ceremonies executive producer, recently told Reuters.

  • It will have "beautiful Japanese aesthetics. Very Japanese but also in sync with the sentiment of today, the reality," Balich said.
  • He added that since there cannot be mass choreography due to coronavirus and there's no audience, "[t]he opening ceremony in a way is going to be unique and focus only on the athletes."
  • "It will be very meaningful, far from the grandiosity of previous ceremonies. The moment is now. It is a beautiful effort. A very truthful, honest ceremony, nothing fake," Balich noted.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details.

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