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Tokyo officials fire director of Olympics Opening Ceremony over old Holocaust joke

The stands at Tokyo Stadium are seen on Thursday before a Men's Group A football match between France and Mexico, at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Bob Strong/UPI
The stands at Tokyo Stadium are seen on Thursday before a Men's Group A football match between France and Mexico, at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Bob Strong/UPI | License Photo

July 22 (UPI) -- Tokyo Olympic officials on Thursday sacked the director of the Opening Ceremony the day before it's scheduled to begin after a video clip from 1998 resurfaced showing him telling a joke about the Holocaust.

In the video, Kentaro Kobayashi performed a skit in which he joked, "let's play massacre the Jews" while part of the comedy duo the Rahmens.

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The joke, uttered while he and his partner recounted a discussion with their producer about ideas for the show, got laughs from the audience then -- but it swiftly led to his removal by the Tokyo Organizing Committee.

"We offer our deep apology to the many Olympic officials as well as residents of Tokyo and the rest of the Japanese population for causing trouble and concerns at a time when the Olympic Games are just around the corner," the Tokyo Organizing Committee said, according to Asahi Shimbun.

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Kobayashi apologized for the skit.

"It should never be the job of an entertainer to make people feel uncomfortable," he said, according to The Guardian." I understand that my choice of words at the time was wrong, and I regret it. I would like to apologize for making people feel uncomfortable. I am very sorry."

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Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and global social action director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, blasted the remarks.

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"Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide," Cooper said in a statement. "The Nazi regime also gassed Germans with disabilities. Any association of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of six million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics."

The Opening Ceremony will take place at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium on Friday.

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