The Artistic Director of the Tokyo Olympics announced his intention to resign on Thursday following offensive remarks from him about a Japanese host, a new headache for organizers almost four months before the start of the Olympics.
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Hiroshi Sasaki suggested last year that popular host and actress Naomi Watanabe wear a pig dress for the sports inauguration, a Japanese tabloid reported on Wednesday.
In a statement, Mr Sasaki said he was “deeply sorry” for doing this “serious insult” to the young woman with generous looks.
The affair comes a month after Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, resigned, whose sexual remarks provoked worldwide outrage.
Before the Olympics were postponed to this year due to the epidemic, in March 2020, Naomi Watanabe wore a pink dress and pig ears at the opening.
His idea of playing on the English words “Olympics” and “Olympics” (“pig” means pig) was dismissed as inappropriate.
“It was a serious insult to Mrs. Watanabe (…). I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” Sasaki said in a statement.
He said he had spoken to Seiko Hashimo, the new chairman of the organizing committee for the Olympics, on Wednesday evening and informed her of his intention to step down.
Tokyo-2020 did not immediately respond, but announced a press conference on Thursday on the matter, where Ms Hashimoto is expected to speak.
Mr Sasaki was not appointed artistic director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics until December, but he was already a key figure in various exhibitions related to the Games.
He was initially responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Paralympic Games and also designed the delicate event at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium last summer, which marked the beginning of a new year countdown to the Games. Postponed (July 23-August 8, 2021).
In 2016, Mr. Sasaki was also behind the idea of disguising the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a “Super Mario” at the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics, which was crowned with success.
Naomi Watanabe, 33, is a well-known media personality in Japan, and has over 9 million followers following her Instagram account. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ms Watanabe, who has been popular in Japan since imitating singer Beyonc in 2008, recently made a name for herself abroad by appearing on Netflix’s Queer Eye series. The actress, model and influencer, is also active in the promotion of her clothing and beauty brands.
The new controversy came shortly after Ms. Hashimoto took office, replacing Yoshiro Mori, who had to resign in February after it was announced that women were more likely to speak at meetings, which he found to be “annoying”.
The scandals are happening because the organizers are already battling with the skepticism of the Japanese people about hosting the Games this year due to the epidemic and a few days before the official decision on whether the event will be attended by foreign spectators. ‘
According to the Japan Press, Olympic authorities will announce a ban on foreign spectators next week.
Organizers are holding out that games can take place despite health restrictions, and have issued very strict rules that they say will ensure a “tough environment”.
The Olympic Torch Relay kicks off on March 25 in Japan. Organizers banned spectators from attending the opening ceremony and the first stage. The rest of the course will be open to the public, but cheers and crowds are prohibited and wearing a mask is mandatory.