On the eve of the tumultuous Tokyo Olympics, the chief of ceremonies is fired.
On Thursday, the director of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony was sacked for making Holocaust jokes, generating further embarrassment only one day before the pandemic-delayed Games begin.
The new spat involving a senior Games official comes at a time when the 2020 Olympics are facing broad resistance, as Tokyo confronts the greatest number of coronavirus cases since January.
In the 16 months following the Olympics’ unusual postponement, Japan’s Covid-19 issue has intensified, triggering a state of emergency and a ban on all Games spectators in Tokyo.
However, organizers are hoping that the opening ceremony on Friday, which will take place in front of a mostly empty Olympic Stadium, and the start of the entire sporting program on Saturday will change the minds of a sceptical audience.
Naomi Osaka of Japan, gymnast Simone Biles of the United States, and swimmer Caeleb Dressel of the United States are among the major names competing in the 16-day, 33-sport Games.
Kentaro Kobayashi, the director of ceremonies, was fired after video of a 1998 comedy sketch in which he made Holocaust jokes to the delight of the crowd surfaced.
Kobayashi apologized for the sketch, calling it “very inappropriate.”
In a statement, he stated, “It was from a time when I wasn’t getting the chuckles I wanted, and I guess I was attempting to grab people’s attention in a shallow-minded way.”
Following Kobayashi’s resignation, composer Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada was sacked for past misdeeds after interviews surfaced in which he admitted harassing disabled schoolmates.
The Tokyo Olympics have lost a number of key figures, including former chief organizer Yoshiro Mori, who resigned in February after making sexist remarks.
Opinion polls have long shown hostility to the Games, with the most recent from the Asahi Shimbun daily suggesting that 55% of respondents were opposed to its being held this summer.
On the streets of Tokyo, where a triumphant Olympics in 1964 showcased technological marvels such as the Shinkansen, or bullet train, which is still in use today, there was little enthusiasm.
Michiko Fukui, 80, told AFP in Tokyo’s affluent Ginza neighborhood, “It’s absolutely different from the last Games, when the whole town was filled with celebratory energy.”
“I’m losing interest,” Seira Onuma, 29, said. I have a sense I won’t be able to really embrace the Olympics, nor will I be able to enjoy them. I’m not even sure if I’ll watch the Games on television.
“In Tokyo, the number of infections is fast increasing once more. The Olympics, in my opinion, should still be postponed or cancelled.”
There have been twelve additional Games-related coronavirus cases announced, four of which are in the. Brief News from Washington Newsday.