The creative director of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, Kentaro Kobayashi has been dismissed on the eve of the event over a decades-old skit referencing the Holocaust.
Olympics organisers announced the decision at a press conference on Thursday, and cited an incident years ago in which Kentaro Kobayashi is said to have made fun of the Holocaust.
Kentaro Kobayashi’s comments in a video of a comedy sketch from 1998 emerged online overnight and sparked shock from some in Japan.
Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto said: “It came to light that during a past performance, (he) used language that mocked a tragic fact of history.”
“The organising committee has decided to relieve Kobayashi of his post,” she added.
In the sketch, Kobayashi and a comedy partner pretend to be a pair of famous children’s TV entertainers.
As they brainstorm an activity involving paper, Kobayashi refers to some paper doll cutouts, describing them as “the ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust”, sparking laughter from the audience.
The pair then joke about how a television producer was angered by the suggestion of a Holocaust activity.
Kobayashi, a well-known figure in theatre in Japan later apologised in a statement and described the skit as containing “extremely inappropriate” lines.
“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.”
The creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March after suggesting a plus-size female comedian appear as a pig.