The director of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony has been sacked on the eve of the Games for making jokes about the Holocaust.
Kentaro Kobayashi says “let’s play massacre the Jews” in a 1998 comedy sketch, footage of which has recently appeared online.
It is the latest in a series of embarrassing departures of key officials to hit preparations for Tokyo 2020.
Organisers say they are still considering whether to proceed with Kobayashi’s plans for the opening ceremony, which takes place on Friday.
“In the short time remaining before the opening ceremony, we offer our deepest apologies for any offence 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 organising committee said.
Kobayashi, a popular entertainer, apologised for having sought “cheap laughs”.
“It should never be the job of an entertainer to make people feel uncomfortable,” he told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.
“I understand that my choice of words at the time was wrong, and I regret it. I would like to apologise for making people feel uncomfortable. I am very sorry.”
This week one of the composers for the opening ceremony, Keigo Oyamada, resigned after it emerged he had boasted of bullying disabled children.
In March, the ceremony’s creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, stepped down after comparing plus-size celebrity Naomi Watanabe to a pig.
And in February, Yoshiro Mori was replaced as head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee for saying that women talked too much.
The Olympics and Paralympics are taking place a year later than planned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.