March 18, 2021 at 17:00 JST
The creative chief of the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Games on March 18 resigned for suggesting that a plus-size female entertainer dress up like a pig for an “Olympig” performance.
“I made an extremely inappropriate expression,” Hiroshi Sasaki, 66, said in a statement issued through the Tokyo Games’ organizing committee.
Bunshun Online on March 17 revealed exchanges among members in charge of the ceremonies via a group chat on the Line communication app in March 2020.
According to the report, Sasaki proposed in the chat that Naomi Watanabe, a popular comedian and actress, be transformed into a pig getting excited in a cage for the “Olympig” performance.
Asked about the remarks, Sasaki was quoted in the article as saying, “I always make stupid puns, and it just slipped off my tongue.”
Other team members, both female and male, immediately criticized him for mocking someone’s appearance, according to the report.
“I got scolded by staff members. It is embarrassing to say but their frank advice made me snap out of the (idea),” Sasaki said in the statement.
He apologized to Watanabe, who is scheduled to appear in the July 23 Opening Ceremony, in the statement for his “extremely derogatory idea and remarks.”
“It is irreparable,” Sasaki said in the statement. “I express my sincere apology to (Watanabe) and people who have been offended by what I said.”
He also offered an apology to other team members who “have worked desperately to prepare for the ceremonies every day.”
Sasaki directed a performance at the Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics in which then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emerged on the stage as Super Mario.
Seiko Hashimoto, the Games’ organizing chief, said at a March 18 news conference that Sasaki’s remarks were “extremely inappropriate, deplorable and impermissible.”
Sasaki reportedly told the organizing committee that he was willing to resign on March 17. Hashimoto said she first thought about persuading him to stay in the position but decided to accept his resignation because the committee “holds gender equality as one of its important policies.”
Asked by a reporter if she should have fired Sasaki considering the importance of the matter, Hashimoto said, “I decline to comment on a hypothetical question.”
Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike also leveled their criticism at Sasaki.
Koike told reporters, “To put it briefly, it is extremely embarrassing.”
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