On the eve of the Tokyo Games, organisers fired the director of the opening ceremony over a joke he made about the Holocaust, while media reported former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a staunch advocate for the Tokyo Games, would skip the showpiece event.
The news is the latest in a series of embarrassments for Tokyo organisers that have sparked outrage and comes just days after a well known musician was forced to step down as composer for the ceremony after old reports of his bullying and abusive behaviour surfaced.
Earlier this year, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee resigned after making sexist remarks and Tokyo Olympics creative head followed after he made derogatory comments about a popular Japanese female entertainer.
Tokyo Games organisers fired Kentaro Kobayashi on Thursday over a joke he made about the Holocaust as part of his comedy act in the 1990s that recently resurfaced in domestic media.
“I offer my deep apology for causing trouble and worry for many people concerned as well as Tokyo residents and Japanese people when the opening ceremony is almost upon us,” said a sombre Seiko Hashimoto, who heads the organising committee.
Earlier, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organisation, released a statement saying Kobayashi’s association with the Olympics would “insult the memory” of the six million Jewish people who perished in the Holocaust.
Kobayashi apologised for his past comments in a statement.