Opening ceremonies are an opportunity for the Olympics’ host nation to show the world what it’s all about. In extreme cases, a flawless spectacle, like Beijing pulled off in 2008, can help define global opinions of a country for years.
With Tokyo in a state of emergency and just 950 spectators filling a stadium built for 68,000, Japan was already under a lot of pressure to pull off a memorable ceremony. But a series of high-profile scandals involving the event’s creative leadership have revealed an ugly side of Japan that the country would have preferred was kept offstage.
The event’s creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March after comparing one of the country’s most popular female comedians to a pig. Last week, the ceremony’s composer Keigo Oyamada, also known as Cornelius, resigned after decades-old interviews surfaced in which he vividly described abusing disabled classmates. His musical compositions will not appear in the ceremony.
And on Thursday, Japan’s Olympic Committee fired a second director, Kentaro Kobayashi, after footage emerged of him making fun of the Holocaust as part of a comedy routine in the 1990s.
The show will still go on despite Kobayashi’s resignation, organizers said. But the last minute changeup seems certain to increase the pressure for a perfect performance.