Just one day before the ceremony began, Kentaro Kobayashi was let go and issued a statement about the controversy.
A 1998 comedy show has come back to bite the Olympics in the behind. Kentaro Kobayashi acted as the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony director and was looking forward to finally kicking off the worldwide sports event today (July 23), but he was reportedly fired this week after it was revealed that back in the late 1990s, Kobayashi made an insensitive joke about the Holocaust.
The Olympics organizing committee stated Kobayashi was let go “after a joke he had made in the past about a painful historical event was brought to light." The committee's president Seiko Hashimoto said, "We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, had used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy."
“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," Hashimoto added. Later, Kobayashi shared that he was regretful for the resurfaced remarks.
"Entertainment should not make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my stupid choice of words at that time was wrong, and I regret it," he said. The opening ceremony continued without Kobayashi and the torch was carried by Naomi Osaka who lit the cauldron to mark the beginning of the events.
According to NBC News, Kobayashi wasn't the only person fired; earlier this week, musician Keigo "Cornelius" Oyamada, a key member of the opening ceremony creative team, was let go after accusations of him bullying his disabled classmates circulated on social media. His music was also removed from the ceremony.