Tokyo Olympics Official Resigns Over Cringey 'Olympig' Idea

Creative director Hiroshi Sasaki quits after idea involving plus-sized comedian Naomi Watanabe
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2021 6:36 AM CDT
Tokyo Olympics Official Resigns Over Cringey 'Olympig' Idea
Naomi Watanabe, a well-known Japanese entertainer, is seen at an event in May 2019 to promote the lottery application for tickets for the Tokyo Olympics.   (Kyodo News via AP)

Japan just may have an Olympic-sized problem with its "old men's club." One month after the 83-year-old head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee stepped down for sexist comments, another top Olympics official is quitting in the wake of his own eyebrow-raising remarks. This time, per the New York Times, it's 66-year-old Hiroshi Sasaki, the creative director for the summer event's opening and closing ceremonies, who has resigned, offering an apology on Thursday for an idea he shared with co-workers a year ago and that's just been publicized. That concept: for popular plus-sized entertainer Naomi Watanabe to don pig ears and serve as the event's "Olympig" during the opening ceremony. Sasaki says he informed Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto of his resignation on Wednesday, just hours after a report by the Shukan Bunshun magazine, reports CNN. Hashimoto called his remarks "very regrettable," per the Times.

In a statement, Sasaki says he'd been in a group messaging chat with colleagues when he shared his idea, which he notes received rapid pushback. "You shouldn't say that," he notes one person told him. He says he realized quickly he'd been in the wrong and nixed the idea, but it wasn't until Shukan Bunshun publicized it this week that he decided to quit. "I cannot apologize enough to Ms. Watanabe," he says. "It was a great misunderstanding. I realized my low consciousness and insensitivity." Sasaki adds that he's a fan of Watanabe, known as the "Japanese Beyonce" for her dance numbers to Beyonce songs. In her own statement, Watanabe says that although she knows her body shape draws ridicule, she's proud of it. "I hope that we can all accept and respect each others' individual traits and views to make the world a happy and bountiful place," she notes, per the Wall Street Journal, which adds this latest hubbub comes as Olympics officials have been trying to promote gender equality. (More Olympics stories.)

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