Tokyo Olympics

Olympics competition begins as director of opening ceremony is fired

Japan's Minori Naito and Mexico's Nicole Rangel during the softball game between the Mexico and Japan during the Olympics in Tokyo.
Japan's Minori Naito and Mexico's Nicole Rangel during the softball game between the Mexico and Japan during the Olympics in Tokyo. © Jorge Silva/Reuters

Olympics competition has begun in Tokyo, ahead of the opening ceremony Friday. The director of the event, planned for a reduced audience to limit the spread of Covid, was fired over comments about the Holocaust.

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The Japanese women's softball team got the hosts off to a winning start on Wednesday with a victory against Mexico, while the US women's football team were upset by Sweden.

More football and softball matches are scheduled for Thursday, a day before the opening ceremony in the main stadium.

Strict rules about Covid will limit the ceremony’s audience to about 950 people, including officials and journalists, in addition to the performers and athletes participating in the Games.

Japan's Emperor Naruhito will be in attendance, along with French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who championed bringing the summer Olympics to Tokyo, made the decision not to attend after the government declared a state of emergency and Covid restrictions on Tokyo.

Organisers said Thursday that two athletes staying in the Olympic village tested positive for Covid, with 12 new positive cases overall, bringing the total of infections among athletes, journalists and officials to 87.

Abe stepped down from office last year for health reasons, and his replacement, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to attend.

Ceremony director fired

Details of which have been kept under wraps, and it is unclear how the dismissal of the event’s director will affect it.

Kentaro Kobayashi was fired Thursday over a video of a 1889 comedy sketch in which he made light of the Holocaust.

"It came to light that during a past performance, [he] used language that mocked a tragic fact of history," Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto told reporters. "The organising committee has decided to relieve Kobayashi of his post."

His dismissal comes days after the a composer for the ceremony stepped down following an outcry over old interviews in which he described abusing disabled schoolmates.

And the creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March after suggesting a plus-size female comedian appear as a pig.

(With wires)

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