Under-fire Olympic composer steps down over past bullying

Jul 18, 2021, 4:39 PM | Updated: Jul 19, 2021, 9:01 pm

TOKYO (AP) — Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese composer working on the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, quit 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,” he said on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“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 Oyamada’s resignation.

Games organizers initially said he would stay on because he had shown remorse. Hours after Oyamada submitted his resignation, they reversed their position and called his actions “absolutely unacceptable.” They said their earlier decision to let Oyamada stay on in light of his apology, and the short time left before the opening ceremony, was “wrong.”

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

Organizing committee chief, Seiko Hashimoto, told reporters that she regretted organizers’ earlier handling. “I wish I had been aware of the problem at an earlier stage, and I wish we had responded more quickly.”

“This Olympics is based on a vision of diversity and harmony,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said. “Taking that into consideration, I hope to have the games that is attentive to human rights.”

Oyamada, 52, 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.

Oyamada, whose works have been compared with the American rock musician Beck, talked about the abuse in Japanese magazine interviews he gave in the 1990s.

In a statement on Sunday, Atsuko Kubo, head of an association of families of the mentally disabled, “strongly protested” against Oyamada’s past actions and said it was disturbing he had targeted the disabled, who were less likely to fight back, and that he 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.”

A segment of the music Oyamada composed for Friday’s opening ceremony will not be used, and the musician will be also removed from his planned role in the Paralymics opening event, organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters at a late night news conference Monday.

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 a Japanese actress should dress as a pig.

___

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Mari Yamaguchi at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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