Just head of the opening ceremonies, Kentaro Kobayashi was let go based on past controversial remarks.

July 22, 2021 at 11:14 AM EDT
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The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics is almost upon us, but Kentaro Kobayashi won't be around to take part in it. The Japanese director and comedian was let go from his role as director of the opening ceremonies based on past controversial remarks.

According to The Associated Press, Kobayashi, who is a former member of the comedy duo Rahmens, and known for comedy series like "The Japanese Tradition," made Holocaust jokes during a comedy show in 1998 that included phrases like "let's play Holocaust!"

Kobayashi's comments drew criticism from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who is the associate dean and global social action director at The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish global human rights organization.

"Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide," said Cooper.

Immediately after becoming aware of the joke on Wednesday, Tokyo 2020 president, Seiko Hashimoto said that she regretted not knowing about the comments sooner. "We offer our deepest apologies for any offense and anguish this matter may have caused to the many people involved in the Olympic Games, as well as to the citizens of Japan and the world," the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee said in a statement.

Kobayashi released a statement of his own following his firing, acknowledging that he remembered making the joke and that he regretted it. "I understand that my choice of words was wrong, and I regret it. I am sorry," he wrote.

Kobayashi's firing comes on the heels of other dismissals from the Olympics committee, including Japanese composer Keigo Oyamada who resigned from her position earlier this week after it became known that he bullied a classmate with disabilities during his childhood. Recently, Hiroshi Sasaki, a previous Olympics director, and former Tokyo Olympics President Yoshiro both stepped down from their roles after making sexist remarks towards women in different situations.

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