Director of Olympics opening ceremony fired for decades-old Holocaust joke

Kentaro Kobayashi was a part of a 1998 comedy act, in which he delivered the line "let's play Holocaust"

Updated: July 22, 2021 - 8:10am

The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee has fired the director of opening ceremonies because of a Holocaust joke he told during a 1998 comedy show.  

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee, said Thursday, a day ahead of the opening ceremony, that Kentaro Kobayashi had been dismissed.

"We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, has used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy," Hashimoto said. "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."

Kobayashi's comedy act reportedly included the phrase "let's play Holocaust." 

"We are going to have the opening ceremony tomorrow and, yes, I am sure there are a lot of people who are not feeling easy about the opening of the Games. But we are going to open the Games tomorrow under this difficult situation," Hashimoto also said about the spectator-less event Friday. 

The Tokyo Olympic games have been mired in scandal since 2013 when the city was awarded the opportunity to host the international competition. French investigators are currently looking into the accusation that there were bribes paid to International Olympic Committee members to influence the outcome for Tokyo. 

Additionally, Japanese composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was going to be featured at the opening ceremony, was forced to resign because of the past bullying of his classmates, which he spoke candidly about in a magazine interview.