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Video: Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony director fired over 1998 Holocaust skit

Tokyo National Olympic Stadium (Tokyo-Good/WikiCommons)
July 22, 2021

The Tokyo Olympics show director for the opening ceremony was recently fired after a comedy skit from 1998 mocking the Holocaust resurfaced, marking another setback for the scandal-ridden Summer Games.

In the sketch, Kentaro Kobayashi and another actor pretend to be famous children’s TV entertainers who are brainstorming a new activity, France 24 reported Thursday. Kobayashi references paper doll cutouts, identifying them as “the ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust,” prompting laughter from the audience.  

The two actors then laugh about a television producer being frustrated by their proposed Holocaust activity and “massacring Jews.”

“It came to light that during a past performance, (he) used language that mocked a tragic fact of history,” Tokyo 2020 Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto told reporters. “The organising committee has decided to relieve Kobayashi of his post.”

Kobayashi’s departure sparked a variety of responses on social media, from those who thought his firing was emblematic of “cancel culture,” while others believed getting removed from the position wasn’t enough.  

“KK is a talented artist who ducked away from TV and made quality theatre. The cancel culture mob draw superficial conclusions based on a 5 sec video from 23 years ago. Yes the Olympics suck and I too am angry but this rush to cancel him is insanity,” one Twitter user wrote. “Isn’t an apology enough?”

“Although Kentaro Kobayashi dismissed, the committee of Olympics said NO CHANGE for the ceremony,” another tweeted. “It means most of the part which directed by him will be played without considering. This is not the justice.”

Still, others thought the punishment was an appropriate response for the controversial jokes.

“Consequences don’t always happen in the moment, sometimes they happen in the form of our past coming back to haunt us. It wasn’t acceptable to make fun of the Holocaust in 1998, he did it anyway, and this is his comeuppance,” a Twitter user said.

The scandal is the latest in a string of difficulties arising at the Tokyo Games. Earlier this week, it was revealed that the login IDs and passwords of people who purchased tickets for the Olympics had been leaked online.

According to the Japanese news agency Kyodo, a government official said the same information belonging to those who bought Paralympic tickets, as well as individuals who used a volunteer portal for the Summer Games, was also leaked online. The official, speaking on a condition of anonymity, noted that organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have launched an investigation into the leaks.