Story at a glance

  • A past video surfaced showing Kentaro Kobayashi saying “Let’s play Holocaust.”
  • "It came to light that during a past performance, [he] used language that mocked a tragic fact of history," Tokyo Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto told reporters.
  • "The organizing committee has decided to relieve Kobayashi of his post."

A Holocaust joke reportedly delivered in a comedy sketch by the director of opening ceremonies for the Tokyo Olympics resulted in his dismissal, the Olympic organizing committee said Thursday. 

The committee dismissed Kentaro Kobayashi one day before the opening ceremony of the delayed Tokyo Games after a 1998 video surfaced showing Kobayashi saying “Let’s play Holocaust,” The Japan Times reported

“We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, had used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy,” Tokyo Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto told reporters.

“We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country,” Tokyo Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto told reporters.


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“Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center global social action director said in a statement. 

"The Nazi regime also gassed Germans with disabilities. Any association of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of 6 million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympic," he concluded. 

Hashimoto read a statement from Kobayashi at a briefing Thursday, which included an apology to “those who were offended. 

“I think it was a time when I couldn't make people laugh as much as I wanted, and I was trying to attract people's attention in a shallow way,” Kobayashi said. “As a person whose job is to entertain people, I should never make people feel uncomfortable...After that, I realized that it was not good for me and I had a change of heart.”


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Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada left his role earlier this week as a composer for the opening ceremony amid reports that he bullied classmates with disabilities while he was a student. 

“I sincerely accept the opinions and advice I have received, express my gratitude, and will keep them in mind for my future actions and thoughts,” Oyamada, who goes by Cornelius, wrote on Twitter. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

Hashimoto explained that Oyamada’s resignation contributed to the committee decision to remove Kobayashi.

“In addition to the controversy surrounding [the behavior] of Mr. Oyamada, such conduct is unacceptable and led us to the decision that [Kobayashi] should be subject to dismissal,” she concluded. 

Opening Ceremonies for the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23. 


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Published on Jul 22, 2021