TOKYO – It was little people’s idea to be funny.
For the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, Hiroshi Sasaki, a creative director of it, introduced a popular comedian and a great fashion designer, Naomi Watanabe, in pig ears and tumbled from the air as an Olympic messenger. Or, as he put it, an ‘Olympiad’.
On Thursday, one day after a Japanese magazine revealed that Sasaki, 66, shared this idea with colleagues a year ago, he resigned and apologized. His departure comes weeks after the president of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, 83, stepped down after coming under heavy criticism for saying that women talk too much in meetings.
In response to the outrage over Mr. Mori, the organizing committee scrambled just months before the start of the Games to put women in leadership positions in an effort to rectify its image as a stuffy ‘old men’s club’.
Sasaki’s quick resignation was a stark contrast to Mr. Mori’s retired. While Mr. Mori quickly apologized for his sexist remark, initially saying he would not resign, and none of Japan’s top government officials insisted he leave.
He finally resigned more than a week later after online petitions to oust him, protests by female lawmakers in opposition parties and concerns from some Olympic sponsors.
In the case of mr. Sasaki, a former advertising executive who was in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies in December, submitted his resignation a few hours after the article appeared in the weekly Shukan Bunshun.
Mr. Sasaki said in a statement on Thursday that he made his comment in a group conversation with colleagues on a messaging app. Several criticized his idea as insulting, and he quoted two of them.
“It’s impossible to compare a woman to a pig,” said one. Another writes: ‘Even if it’s a spontaneous idea, do not say it. ‘
Mr. Sasaki said he took their answers to heart and took back his proposal. But he did not decide to resign until reporters contacted him for their article.
“Now a lot of people know what I wrote. I can not apologize to Ms Watanabe enough, ”he said, adding that he was a big fan of her. ‘I tried not to hurt others by making fun of diversity, gender and physical appearance. But it was a big misunderstanding. I realized my low consciousness and insensitivity. ”
Me. Watanabe (33) gained fame with her shaky dance performances of Beyoncé songs, and she was called ‘the Japanese Beyoncé’ in the media. She said a campaigner for body positivity in a country that largely attributes thinness to women feel most liberated when you eat ice cream in bed and how a muscular sumo wrestler embodies her ideal body type.
Ms Watanabe, who promoted the Tokyo Olympics event, said she was surprised to hear of Sasaki’s derogatory idea.
“I work with the understanding that my appearance is being ridiculed,” she said in a statement by her agency, Yoshimoto. ‘I’m actually happy with my figure. So, as usual, I want to express myself as ‘Naomi Watanabe’ without stressing too much that I’m fat. ‘
She added that she wants a world ‘where we can respect and recognize the individual and way of thinking of each one.’
Ms Watanabe is the founder of a plus-size brand, Punyus, and was named a global brand ambassador for Kate Spade in 2020. She said this month that she was moving to the United States to build her entertainment career there, and that she had secured representation from ICM Partners and IMG Models.
Seiko Hashimoto, who Mr. Replacing Mori as president of the Olympic Organizing Committee in Tokyo, she said on Thursday she was shocked by the remark of Mr. Sasaki about me. Watanabe and call it “inappropriate and very deplorable.”
She first heard from the Shukan Bunshun about the remark of Mr. Sasaki understands article, she said in a newsletter. The committee was verifying the report, she said when Mr. Sasaki called her on Wednesday to explain what had happened and to offer his resignation.
“In light of his resolute decision to resign and in light of the fact that our gender equality has made a focal point,” she said. Hashimoto said: “I accepted him and thanked him for his many contributions.”
Asked if she would prefer him to stay, as the opening ceremony is only four months away, Ms. Hashimoto said, “Yes, I had the feeling.” But after hearing his determination to resign, she added.
Mr. Sasaki, who was already responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Paralympic Games, added the Olympic Games ceremonies to his portfolio after the event was postponed last year due to the pandemic. He said the Olympic ceremonies would be reduced to reflect the sacrifices of the past year.
He also handed over the flag during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was dressed as Mario, the Nintendo video game character.
Makiko Inoue and Motoko Rich reported from Tokyo, and Tiffany May from Hong Kong.