Tokyo 2020 sacks opening ceremony chief over ‘Holocaust jokes’

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Tokyo 2020 sacks opening ceremony chief over ‘Holocaust jokes’

Kentaro Kobayashi reportedly made the comments about Jews and disabled people in a comedy routine from the 1990s

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

A photograph of Olympics opening ceremony show director Kentaro Kobayashi held up by a Paralympics Games executive in December 2019 (Photo: Kyodo via Reuters)
A photograph of Olympics opening ceremony show director Kentaro Kobayashi held up by a Paralympics Games executive in December 2019 (Photo: Kyodo via Reuters)

Tokyo Olympics organisers have fired the opening ceremony director on the eve of the event after reports emerged of a past joke he had made about the Holocaust.

Kentaro Kobayashi was dismissed on Thursday over remarks he made as part of a comedy act in the 1990s that recently resurfaced in domestic media.

The routine, which was also reported to have included comments belittling disabled people, was condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Coop, a director at the centre.

“The Nazi regime also gassed Germans with disabilities. 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.”

Tokyo 2020 organisers said they had become aware of Kobayashi’s past performances overnight and dismissed him immediately.

“I offer my deep apology for causing trouble and worry for many people concerned as well as Tokyo residents and Japanese people when the opening ceremony is almost upon us,” said Seiko Hashimoto, who heads the organising committee.

“”Regarding the issue of Mr Kobayashi, the Organising Committee received the information between late last night and this morning, and then we began discussions. We were utterly unaware that such a thing existed at all.

“The problem has come to light, and I believe there are various diplomatic issues too. We had to take immediate action, and decided to dismiss him.”

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