Olympics opening ceremony director

A 1998 clip has emerged of former comedian Kentaro Kobayashi doing an ‘inappropriate’ routine


2AEMTM6 Hiroshi Sasaki (R), executive creative director for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics ceremonies, speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 9, 2019. The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee said the same day that it will accept applications from the following day through Jan. 10, 2020, from people wishing to perform in the Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies, which will be directed by Keralino Sandrovich and Kentaro Kobayashi (seen in photo panel), respectively. (Kyodo)==Kyodo Photo via Credit: Newscom/Alamy Live News

The director of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony has been fired over a Holocaust joke made during a comedy routine in 1998. 

The country’s Olympics chief Seiko Hashimoto said on Thursday that Japanese entertainer Kentaro Kobayashi had been dismissed, a day before the show was scheduled to air. 

Mr Kobayashi, 48, had decades earlier “used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy,” she said, according to the AP

“We deeply apologise 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,” she said.

A clip of the comedy routine resurfaced on social media ahead of Friday’s ceremony. 

According to a translation offered by the New York Times, in the clip Mr Kobayashi “joked about ‘massacring Jews’ while miming the act of cutting up human figures made of paper.”

Mr Kobayashi apologised for the “extremely inappropriate” lines in a statement to AFP.

"It was from a time when I was not able to get laughs the way I wanted, and I believe I was trying to grab people's attention in a shallow-minded way,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga condemned the “utterly outrageous and completely unacceptable” incident in a statement to NBC News.

The US-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre criticised the sketch. 

“Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide. 

“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,” said the organisation’s associate dean and global social action director, Rabbi Abraham Cooper.

The opening ceremony takes place tomorrow at midday, UK time. 

The lead up to the Tokyo Olympics has been marred by a number of scandals and criticism over the games taking place during the pandemic.

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