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'Cursed' Olympics: Games' organizing member sings blues over composer's resignation

An Olympic rings monument made of bronze with wood at its sides is seen at the summit of Mount Takao in the Tokyo suburban city of Hachioji. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

TOKYO -- The resignation of an Olympic composer just four days before the games' opening over his past confessions to bullying provoked criticism among organizers, experts and citizens, with one individual linked to the Tokyo Games organizing committee lamenting, "This event really is cursed."

    Keigo Oyamada, 52, stepped down as a member of the creative team for the Olympic opening ceremony on July 19 after apologizing over his past bullying of two classmates believed to have disabilities.

    The Tokyo Games advocate "diversity and harmony" as one of their visions, and organizers have repeatedly highlighted the unity between the Olympics and Paralympics. Oyamada's language and actions, which run counter to the principles of the games, led him to leave the creative team. The incident followed the resignation of another individual serving as the games' chief creative director in March.

    At a press conference on July 19, Hidemasa Nakamura, chief of the games' main operation center, defended the organizing committee's appointment of Oyamada, saying, "None of us had heard about it," in reference to the musician's past magazine interviews discussing his bullying.

    "His actions are beyond forgiveness as a human being, and it's appropriate he resigns," said one individual connected to the organizing committee. "So many things have happened in the run up to the games' opening. This event really is cursed."

    Overseas media outlets have also reacted sharply to Oyamada's actions one after another. The Associated Press reported, "The scandal is the latest to plague the Games, already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, with just five days to go before opening," while NBC News' online edition slammed the appointment of Oyamada by quoting a Twitter post: "On social media, critics were far from forgiving. 'How can a person who committed such discriminatory and violent acts (be) considered qualified for getting involved in Olympic and Paralympic Games?' a person posted on Twitter."

    After the bullying issue surfaced, Oyamada swiftly issued an apology on social media. While the Tokyo Games organizing committee initially planned to allow him to continue his role, it ended up accepting his resignation after finding it impossible to resist the storm of criticism both at home and abroad. Oyamada's resignation came a mere five days after the committee announced his appointment as one of the composers for the opening ceremony.

    In March, Hiroshi Sasaki, chief creative director for the games' opening and closing ceremonies, resigned after it emerged through magazine reports that he had proposed a role for popular entertainer Naomi Watanabe that apparently made fun of her physical appearance.

    Because the International Olympic Committee attaches much weight to the image of the opening ceremony, expected to garner a high viewership rate globally, it pressed the Tokyo Games organizing committee to take action about the issue. As a result, Sasaki was driven into stepping down less than a day after his derogatory remarks about the celebrity came to the surface.

    (Japanese original by Yuta Kobayashi, Sports News Department)

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