Tokyo Olympic chief creative director quits over derogatory remark

March 18, 2021 | Updated 4:19 pm

Tokyo Olympic chief creative director quits over derogatory remark Hiroshi Sasaki (2nd L) presents at a press briefing in Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 23, 2020. (Tokyo 2020 organizing committee/Handout via Xinhua)

Tokyo: Tokyo Olympic chief creative director Hiroshi Sasaki has resigned after making derogatory remarks about a popular female Japanese entertainer, dealing another blow to the postponed Olympic Games with four months to go until the opening ceremony.

Japan’s weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun reported on Wednesday that the 66-year-old told staff members that Naomi Watanabe could perform at the ceremony as an “Olympig”, a play on the word “Olympic”.

Watanabe, 33, is a heavy-set Japanese comedian, actress, and fashion designer, and is a very popular figure in Japan. Sasaki took over as the chief creative director after replacing actor Nomura Mansai last December and is responsible for revising the program for the opening and closing ceremonies for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

He made a lengthy apology early morning on Thursday and told Tokyo 2020 president, Seiko Hashimoto, he will step down.

“My idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable,” he said. “I regret this from the bottom of my heart, and I deeply apologize to her and everyone who felt offended.”

Hashimoto will hold a press conference later on Thursday to talk about the issue. Hashimoto’s predecessor Yoshiro Mori was also forced to quit as president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee after making sexist comments. On February 3, 2021, when Mori was asked about increasing gender diversity among board members of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), he had complained about what he believes is women’s tendency to talk too much and to have “a strong sense of rivalry.”

Following this remark, he was called out by many for being “sexist.” Later, he had tendered his resignation and had apologised for his inappropriate remarks.

The Tokyo Olympics were postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. They are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8 while the Paralympics will take place from August 24 to September 5, 2021.