The creative director of Tokyo’s Olympic ceremonies resigned on Thursday for suggesting a female comedian appear as a pig.
Hiroshi Sasaki announced his decision after a report on Wednesday revealed his proposal that Naomi Watanabe, a popular celebrity appear as an “Olympig” wearing pig ears at the opening ceremony.
It is just the latest headache for the coronavirus-delayed Games, which are struggling for public support mid-pandemic and were left reeling by former chief Yoshiro Mori’s sexist comments last month.
In a statement released early Thursday, Sasaki apologised to Watanabe and said he understood his suggestion was inappropriate.
“My idea would be a huge insult to Ms. Naomi Watanabe. This can’t be taken back,” he said.
“I regret this from the bottom of my heart, and I deeply apologise to her and everyone who felt discomfort over this,” he added.
Tokyo Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto, who replaced Mori last month, told reporters she was “shocked” by Sasaki’s remarks.
“To joke about appearance is very, very inappropriate,” Hashimoto said, adding she would work to find a replacement for Sasaki quickly.
The scandal erupted on Wednesday evening, when a local magazine reported that Sasaki suggested to colleagues last year that Watanabe could dress up as an “Olympig”.
The proposal, made in a group chat, was immediately rejected by Sasaki’s colleagues, who told him it was inappropriate.
The Olympic torch relay is due to kick off on March 25, though spectators are barred from the launch ceremony and first leg, with those lining the route elsewhere banned from cheering and crowding, and required to wear masks.