The creative director of the Tokyo Olympics resigned Thursday after it emerged that he suggested that a well-known female comedian perform as an “Olympig.”
Hiroshi Sasaki, who was in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies for the postponed games — scheduled to begin on July 23 — made the comment about Naomi Watanabe last year as he spoke to other planning team members in an online “brainstorming” session.
Watanabe, 33, first rose to fame in Japan as a comedian but has since gained attention as a fashion icon at home and abroad, Kyodo News reported.
Sasaki released a statement Thursday saying he was stepping down, and that he had called Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee, to submit his resignation.
“For Ms. Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult,” Sasaki said. “And it is unforgivable. I offer my deepest regrets and apologize from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this.”
“It is truly regrettable, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he added.
In a Thursday news conference, Hashimoto said she had accepted Sasaki’s resignation, though she indicated she had tried to persuade him to stay.
“I did feel that way but he explained, and his intention was very strong,” Hashimoto said. “That is how I felt. For those reasons, I decided to accept his resignation.”
She said a replacement would come soon.
Watanabe told Kyodo News she is “honestly surprised” to hear about Sasaki’s comments.
“In fact, I am happy with my figure,” she said in a statement released through her agency. “So, as usual, I would like to express myself as ‘Naomi Watanabe’ without being particular about being fat.”
“However, as a human being, I sincerely hope that we can have a fun and prosperous world where we can respect and recognize each person’s individuality and way of thinking,” she added.
In February, the president of the organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, was forced to resign in February after reportedly making sexist comments, saying that women speak too much in meetings.
The head of the Japanese Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda was also forced to step down amid a 2019 vote-buying scandal involving IOC members.
With Post wires