Organizers of the Tokyo Games are scrambling to make last-minute changes to the Olympics opening ceremony after one of its music composers resigned due to his past boasts about abusing schoolmates with disabilities.
The bombshell resignation of Keigo Oyamada, who is better known as Cornelius, is the latest in a litany of setbacks to hit the Games, which are slated to kick off Friday.
“I’m now painfully aware that it was inconsiderate of me to accept an offer to contribute music to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” Oyamada said in a statement issued after he tendered his resignation from his role Monday evening. “I apologize sincerely.”
The 52-year-old musician’s exit from the Games as a creative team member has left organizers with no option but to ditch his four-minute composition that was supposed to be used during the opening ceremony, a public relations official with the Tokyo Organising Committee told The Japan Times. Oyamada’s involvement in the Paralympics has similarly been canceled, Toshiro Muto, CEO of the organizing committee, was quoted as saying Monday night. Organizers are now reportedly searching to find a replacement for his composition.
Oyamada is the latest in a series of figures connected to the Olympics who have had to bow out over remarks and actions that fly in the face of the event’s supposed commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In February, then-Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori had to quit after he said that women talk too long at meetings because of their innate competitiveness, sparking a public backlash and debate over sexism in Japan.
In March, creative director Hiroshi Sasaki resigned amid revelations that he had once suggested that Naomi Watanabe, a plus-size female celebrity, don a pig costume and appear as an “Olympig” for the opening ceremony.
The Tokyo Organising Committee originally voiced the intention to retain Oyamada in his role, citing his expression of remorse.
“We expressed a willingness to allow Mr. Oyamada to continue his work on preparations in the short time remaining before the Opening Ceremony,” the committee said in a statement Monday evening. “However, we have come to believe that this decision was wrong, and we have decided to accept his resignation.”
Shortly after Oyamada’s involvement in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics was announced last week, details of interviews he gave to magazines in the 1990s resurfaced online.
In those interviews, a young, seemingly unrepentant Oyamada described details of abuse that had inflicted upon schoolmates with disabilities as a child. Widely circulated examples included physical assaults, confinement and forcing acts such as eating feces and publicly masturbating.
“It is true that in past magazine interviews I talked unapologetically about heartless actions and words I had directed at my former classmates and those with disabilities in my nearby school,” Oyamada said in an earlier statement issued Friday.
In it, Oyamada apologized for the “unpleasantness that my involvement as a composer in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics has caused to many people,” but he said that some of the details described in the interviews had been exaggerated. He has long left them uncorrected as a form of self-punishment, he said.
Despite his apology, a torrent of criticism continued to pour forth on social media, with many calling into question Oyamada’s abilities and slamming his past behavior as at odds with the inclusive spirit of the Games, which bans discrimination in all its forms.
On the online petition site Change.org, a campaign had begun calling for the removal of Oyamada from his role as a composer for the opening ceremony. A hashtag that read “we call for Keigo Oyamada’s dismissal” also trended on Twitter.
On Sunday, an association of advocacy groups promoting the rights of people with intellectual disabilities released a statement denouncing Oyamada’s past acts as “more abuse or torture than bullying,” slamming them — even after taking into account his young age at the time — as “unforgivable.”
Moreover, “there was no need for him, as a prominent musician, to make a show of (his past actions) in such a frivolous manner in interviews with high-profile music magazines,” the association said, lambasting how he tried to cast his experience as a bully as a tale of some “heroic triumph.”
“We really don’t understand why Mr. Oyamada considered himself fit for a role in the Paralympics, a sports event for athletes with disabilities, in the first place.”
As the fallout from the scandal continued to grow, publishers of the magazines that ran the interviews with Oyamada were also forced to apologize.
“My attitude as an interviewer (with Oyamada) and my decision as the editor-in-chief back then to publish the interview were wrong and reflective of my lack of an ethical and serious attitude toward the issue of bullying,” Yoichiro Yamasaki, editor-in-chief of the magazine Rockin’On Japan, said in a statement Sunday.
Satoshi Oka, president of Ohta Publishing Co., similarly admitted Monday to the inappropriate nature of an article that ran in a 1995 issue of Quick Japan, in which, he said, Oyamada confessed to his past experience bullying those with disabilities.
“The article was inappropriate in that it not only hurt the feelings of the victimized, but encouraged discrimination,” he said in a statement.
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