The creative director of Tokyo’s Olympic ceremonies announced his resignation on Thursday to propose a plus-size female comedian as a pig, just weeks after the suspended game director left a line of sexism.
Hiroshi Sasaki announced his decision after a report on Wednesday revealed his proposal for Naomi Watanabe, a hugely popular celebrity, for the inauguration ceremony.
It’s just the latest headache for coronavirus-delayed game organizers, who are fighting for public support in the midst of the pandemic and were left behind by former boss Yoshiro Mori’s sexist comments last month.
In a statement released early on Thursday, Sasaki Watanabe apologized and said he understood his proposal had been inappropriate.
“My idea would be a huge insult to Naomi Watanabe. This cannot be taken back, he said.
“I apologize from the bottom of my heart and apologize to her and to anyone who felt uncomfortable with this,” he added.
Sasaki said he had spoken to Tokyo chief Seiko Hashimoto, who replaced Mori last month, to inform her he was resigning.
The scandal broke out on Wednesday night, when a local newspaper reported that Sasaki last year suggested to colleagues that Watanabe could appear at the Olympic opening ceremony as an “Olympian”, wearing pig ears.
The proposal, made in a group chat, was immediately rejected by Sasaki’s colleagues, who told him it was inappropriate.
Recent Olympic scandal
Sasaki was originally appointed to handle the opening and closing ceremonies of the Paralympics, but became creative director of the Olympic extravaganzas in December.
Watanabe is a well-known celebrity in Japan and is known among international fans in part thanks to an appearance in the famous makeover show “Queer Eye”.
The comedian and model, who fronts campaigns for products from clothing to skin care, has more than nine million followers on Instagram.
She is one of the few prominent figures in larger size among Japan’s celebrities and has faced insults in the past. She has not yet commented on the latest line.
There was also no immediate comment from the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, although Hashimoto is expected to raise the issue at a press conference on Thursday.
The line comes at a sensitive time for the games after the firestorm that erupted when former Tokyo 2020 boss Mori said that women talk too much in meetings.
Mori eventually resigned with former Olympic Minister Hashimoto as his successor, but the scandal was hugely damaging to the organizers, who have now moved to improve the gender balance on their board.
It was the latest in a series of Olympic adversities, including a plagiarism over the games’ original logo and anger over a $ 2 billion design for the main stadium, which was later reduced.
In 2019, the head of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, resigned after being accused by French magistrates of testing $ 2.3 million in payments made before and after Tokyo secured host rights.
Organizers are facing general skepticism about holding the games this year and will make a key decision on whether foreign fans may participate.
They are widely expected to announce next week that foreign spectators will be banned, with restrictions on domestic fans still to be determined.
The organizers insist that the games can still continue and have released a series of rulebooks that they say will guarantee virus security.
The Olympic torch relay will start on March 25, although spectators are excluded from the launch ceremony and the first stage, with those along the way elsewhere banned from cheering and crowding and having to wear masks.