Tokyo Games creative director resigns over offensive ‘Olympig’ idea
Tokyo: Tokyo Olympics creative director Hiroshi Sasaki is resigning after making demeaning comments about a well-known female celebrity.
It is yet another setback for the postponed Games and another involving comments about women. The Olympics are to open in just over four months, on July 23, despite being dogged by the pandemic, record costs, and numerous scandals.
Japanese comedian, actress and fashion designer, Naomi Watanabe.Credit:Commons
Sasaki was in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics. It transpired he told planning staff members last year that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe could perform in the ceremony as an “Olympig”.
Watanabe is a large woman and very famous in Japan, and “Olympig” was a play on the word “Olympic.”
It is the latest in a string of scandals for the event.
In February, the president of the organising committee Yoshiro Mori was forced to resign after making sexist comments, saying women talk too much in meetings.
Two years ago, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda was also forced to step down in a bribery scandal connected to vote-buying involving International Olympic Committee members.
Sasaki released a statement early on Thursday saying he was stepping down. He said he had also called Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organising committee, and tendered his resignation.
“For Ms Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable,” Sasaki said. “I offer my deepest regrets and apologise from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this.”
“It is truly regrettable, and I apologise from the bottom of my heart,” he added.
Hashimoto, who replaced Mori, was scheduled to speak later on Thursday.
Sasaki formerly worked for the giant Japanese advertising company Dentsu, which has been a key supporter of these Olympics. It is the official marketing partner and has helped to raise a record of $US3.5 billion in local sponsorship, almost three times as much as any previous Olympics.
The torch relay for the Olympics kicks off next week from north-eastern Japan and will be a severe test with 10,000 runners crisscrossing the country for four months, heading to the opening ceremony and trying to avoid spreading COVID-19.
Organisers and the IOC insist the Games will go forward during the pandemic with 11,000 Olympic and 4400 Paralympic athletes entering Japan. Official costs for Tokyo are $US15.4 billion but several government audits show the real cost might be twice that much.
A University of Oxford study says Tokyo is the most expensive Olympic Games on record.
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