The director of the Olympics opening ceremony has been fired over comments he made about the Holocaust.
The remarks were made by Kentaro Kobayashi during a comedy show in 1998 and included the phrase: “Let’s play Holocaust”.
Mr Kobayashi’s words resurfaced in news articles ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony, and organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto confirmed on Thursday morning that the comedian, actor, and theatre director had been fired.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organisation, commented: “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.”
It is not the first bad headline connected to the opening ceremony for the Games in Tokyo, which were postponed from last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier in the week, one of the show’s composers was forced to resign after he boasted in magazine interviews about bullying his classmates.
Japanese media have reported that fewer than 950 people – including only around 15 global leaders – are set to attend the opening ceremony.
US First Lady Jill Biden is expected to be there, but former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe – who played a major role in Tokyo being chosen to host the Games – will not be.
Many of the events are taking place without spectators. Pic: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Network
Team GB has also confirmed its flagbearers for the ceremony, with a break in tradition meaning that both a female and male athlete can be named.
Sailor Hannah Mills and rower Mohamed Sbihi were chosen as athletes who exemplify Olympic values and Team GB values of pride, responsibility, respect and unity.
Mills, who will be defending her women’s 470 title alongside Eilidh McIntyre, said: “It is the greatest honour in my career and I hope more than ever before that this Games can lift our country and deliver some incredible sporting moments to inspire the nation.”
Sbihi, a gold medallist in the men’s fours almost five years ago, added: “It will be really special and will complete my Olympic puzzle: I’ve won a medal, been to the closing ceremony but now to actually turn up at an opening ceremony and be at the head of the team alongside Hannah it will be a lifetime memory that I will never forget.”
Meanwhile, there were 12 new COVID-19 cases confirmed among athletes and personnel at the athletes’ village, taking the Games total to more than 90.
These include a Dutch skateboarder and a Chilean who was set to compete in Taekwondo, six contractors, and four Games-related personnel.