Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony show director fired over decades-old anti-Semitic comments
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.
12:23 a.m. ET, July 22, 2021
Coronavirus cases linked to Tokyo 2020 rise to 91, organizers say
From CNN’s Chandler Thornton
Olympic rings are seen at sunset on July 21, in Tokyo, Japan.
Olympic rings are seen at sunset on July 21, in Tokyo, Japan. Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images
The number of Covid-19 cases in Japan linked to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has risen to 91 with the official start of the Games just one day away.
Eleven new cases were reported Thursday, including four people staying in the Olympic Village, organizers said. Two were athletes and two were “Games-related personnel.”
The total number of cases reported from the village is now nine.
Tokyo 2020 is not revealing the names nor nationalities of the Covid-19 cases.
12:34 a.m. ET, July 22, 2021
It’s the second day of Olympic competition in Tokyo. Here’s what you should know
Kelsey Jenkins #1 of Team Canada high-fives teammates before their game against Team United States during the Softball Opening Round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on July 22.
Kelsey Jenkins #1 of Team Canada high-fives teammates before their game against Team United States during the Softball Opening Round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on July 22. Yuichi Masuda/Getty Image
The Olympics formally kick off Friday night in Tokyo with the opening ceremony, but competition at the pandemic-delayed Summer Games is already underway.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the second day of events:
Covid keeps coming: The challenges of holding one of the world’s most prestigious sporting competitions during a pandemic have never been more clear. Several athletes have seen their dreams dashed after testing positive either in their home countries or upon arrival in Japan. Dozens of cases in Japan have been tied to the Games.
With a little more than 24 hours to go until the opening ceremony, organizers continue to exude confidence the Olympics can be held successfully with the safety measures in place.
Still, things look remarkably different than years past. The nearly empty stadiums in which athletes are competing are a constant visual reminder of the pandemic’s toll. Tomorrow’s festivities may look even more barren. Organizers said only 950 VIPs will attend the opening ceremony, held in a stadium with 68,000 seats.
Japan’s top Olympic official did not rule out a last-minute cancellation, but things appear to be going ahead as planned.
“The world needs now more than ever a celebration of hope,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a speech in Tokyo ahead of the Games. “The celebrations may be more muted this year, but the message of hope is all the more important.”
Activist athletes: Five women’s football teams protested against racism ahead of their opening matches: Great Britain, Chile, the United States, Sweden and New Zealand. Australia’s team remained standing with their arms locked together and posed for a pre-game photo with the country’s Indigenous flag.
Swedish defender Amanda Ilestedt said after the match they were standing up for human rights.
Softball, football and shooting: The schedule today is lighter than a normal Olympic day, but here are some of the highlights:
The top-seeded US softball team takes on Canada, which is ranked third
Men’s football begins with eight matches in the afternoon and evening Japan time
Official shooting training will take place at the Asaka Shooting Range.