Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Director Kentaro Kobayashi Fired After Holocaust Jokes Resurface
The Tokyo Olympics might be just a day away, but one instrumental figure won’t be attending the opening ceremony. Kentaro Kobayashi, the opening ceremony director, was fired after his past Holocaust jokes resurfaced.
The comedian was a member of the comedy duo Rahmens and, during a show in 1998, made a reference to the Holocaust, saying, “let’s play Holocaust!” The duo was also known for such sketches as “The Japanese Tradition.”
Kobayashi’s comments drew international criticism, particularly from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean and global social action director at The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish global rights organization based in Los Angeles. “Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” he said.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto took action as soon as she became aware of the director’s past jokes, and the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee made a public apology. “We offer our deepest apologies for any offense and anguish this matter may have caused to the many people involved in the Olympic Games, as well as to the citizens of Japan and the world,” they said in a statement.
The comedian, for his part, apologized for his comments in a statement following the firing. “I understand that my choice of words was wrong, and I regret it,” he said. “I am sorry.”
Kobayashi is not the first Tokyo Olympics official to lose their job due to the resurgence of past comments. Three others, Japanese composer Keigo Oyamada, previous Olympics director Hiroshi Sasaki and former Tokyo Olympics President Yoshiro have resigned their positions as a result of past scandals. Oyamada stepped down after it was revealed that he bullied a disabled classmate as a child while Sasaki, and Yoshiro both left after their sexist remarks toward women came to light.