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How cursed are the Tokyo Olympics? Opening-ceremony composer steps down over bullying

The Olympic rings float on a barge in Tokyo
Add composer Keigo Oyamada to the list of people who have resigned from the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to open Friday.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese composer working on the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, resigned Monday after coming under fire for bullying classmates during his childhood.

“I sincerely accept the opinions and advice I have received, express my gratitude, and will keep them in mind for my future actions and thoughts,” the 52-year-old said on social media. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

Reports of his past abuse of classmates, including those with disabilities, surfaced online recently and sparked a backlash on social media plus demands for his resignation. Oyamada, whose works have been compared to the American rock musician Beck, talked about the abuse in Japanese magazine interviews he gave in the 1990s.

Games organizers said on Sunday that he would stay on because he had shown remorse. But hours after Oyamada submitted his resignation, they reversed their position and called his actions “absolutely unacceptable,” saying their earlier decision to let him stay on in light of his apology, and because of the short time left before Friday’s opening ceremony, was “wrong.”

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The Tokyo Olympic Games will feature 613 American athletes vying for gold, with more than 80 hailing from cities and towns in Southern California.

A slight man wears a tan hat and carries a bag
Keigo Oyamada in 2015.
(Atsushi Tomura / Getty Images)

“We offer our deepest apologies for the offense and confusion caused to so many during this time,” organizers said.

Oyamada, also known as Cornelius, apologized online last week. Some critics had said he should hold a news conference and apologize in person. Others questioned why he hadn’t apologized earlier.

In a statement on Sunday, Atsuko Kubo, head of an association of families of the mentally disabled, said it was disturbing that Oyamada had targeted the disabled, who were less likely to fight back, and still bragged about it years later.

Earlier Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Oyamada’s past bullying goes against government policy of achieving an inclusive society and “cannot be tolerated.”

Toyota won’t be airing any Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese television during the Tokyo Games despite being a top corporate sponsor.

Later Monday, organizers said a segment of the music Oyamada composed for Friday’s opening ceremony will not be used, NHK public television and other Japanese media reported. He will also be removed from his planned role in the Paralympics opening ceremony, NHK said.

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Friday’s ceremony will be held without spectators in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus infections, although some officials, guests and media will attend.

The resignation comes as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government faces criticism for prioritizing the Olympics despite the public’s health concerns amid the resurgence of the infections.

Oyamada’s is the latest resignation to plague the Games. Yoshiro Mori resigned as organizing committee president over remarks perceived as sexist. Hiroshi Sasaki also stepped down as creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies after suggesting that Naomi Watanabe, a popular Japanese comic, actress and plus-size fashion designer, should dress as a pig.

Coco Gauff has tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing her to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics.

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