Tokyo 2020 organizers to keep composer for opening ceremony despite past bullying

July 19, 2021 - 5:37 PM
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Tennis Training - Ariake Tennis Park, Tokyo, Japan - July 19, 2021 Tokyo 2020 Olympics signage is seen behind nations flags at the Ariake Tennis Park (Reuters/Hannah Mckay)

TOKYO — Tokyo 2020 organizers said on Monday they wanted Olympic composer Keigo Oyamada, who described in magazines decades ago how he had bullied his classmates but apologized for that later, to stay on to prepare for the opening ceremony.

Oyamada, who has come under fire in recent weeks when the past issues of the magazines have been circulated online, has been tasked to compose the music for the ceremony slated for July 23.

Oyamada told Quick Japan magazine published in 1995 how he confined a classmate in a cardboard box and made fun of a student with disabilities, the Asahi Shimbun daily reported last week. He also described his experience of bullying a classmate in another magazine published in the mid-1990s, the paper said.

“He has issued a statement of apology. He now regrets (what he did) greatly … we want him to stay on and proceed with preparation for the opening ceremony,” Masa Takaya, Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee spokesperson, told a briefing.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a regular news conference on Monday that he expected Tokyo 2020 organizers to handle the issue adequately.

In the statement posted on his home page on Friday, Oyamada, also known as Cornelius, said he was feeling deep remorse and responsibility.

“I offer my heartfelt apology … In my school days and at the time of the (magazine) interviews, I was a very immature man who could not imagine how the victimized feel,” he said in the statement.

The development is the latest in a series of headaches and embarrassments for the Tokyo Olympics organizers.

The former Tokyo 2020 president, ex-prime minister Yoshiro Mori, stepped down in February after making sexist comments, while Tokyo Olympics creative head Hiroshi Sasaki resigned in March after making a derogatory comment about a popular Japanese female entertainer.

There is widespread concern among the public over the safety of holding the international sporting event amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Games were postponed for a year due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and the number of infections in Tokyo has been on the rise again in recent weeks. —Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Tom Hogue and Hugh Lawson