Tokyo 2020’s opening ceremony show director was dismissed Thursday, shortly after local media reported on anti-Semitic comments he made about the Holocaust in 1998.
Comedian Kentaro Kobayashi would be dismissed for his past performance, which ridiculed “painful facts of history,” Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement.
“As the opening ceremony is approaching, we deeply apologize for the inconvenience and concern caused to many people concerned, the citizens of Tokyo, and the people of Tokyo,” the statement read.
Though Kobayashi’s comments were made more than two decades ago, they only recently resurfaced in the Japanese press.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish global human rights group, on Wednesday condemned the remarks.
“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 Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean and global social action director.
Kobayashi apologized in a statement, saying his past behavior was “inadequate.”
“As a person who is in the business of entertaining people, it should not be my job to make people feel unpleasant. I understand that my foolish choice of words at the time was a mistake, and I regret it,” he said.
Organizers did not explain in their statement how Kobayashi will be replaced just a day before the opening ceremony.
Kobayashi is the second official tied to the event to lose his post this week due to comments that were recently made public. The opening and closing ceremonies’ music composer, Keigo Oyamada, resigned from his position after he was criticized for saying in interviews that he bullied classmates.
The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. in Tokyo, but will be pared down in comparison to previous versions. Only about About 950 VIPs will attend, organizers said.