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Hiroshi Sasaki, the Games' creative director, suggested that Japanese celeb Naomi Watanabe could perform dressed as a pig during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

By Lindsay Kimble
March 19, 2021 11:51 AM
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Hiroshi Sasaki, Naomi Watanabe
Hiroshi Sasaki (left) and Naomi Watanabe
| Credit: Matt Roberts/Getty; Jacopo Raule/Getty

Another Tokyo Olympics official has resigned, this time over comments made about a female Japanese celebrity.

Hiroshi Sasaki, the Games' creative director, has resigned after a report from Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun said he suggested a female Japanese celebrity dress as a pig during this summer's opening ceremony, according to a Tokyo Olympics press release.

Shukan Bunshun said that during a meeting with fellow Games' planners, Sasaki had suggested that actress Naomi Watanabe should appear during the ceremony as an "olympig," according to NPR.

New Tokyo Olympics President Seiko Hashimoto said in the press release that she was "shocked" by the "inappropriate and very regrettable" comments from Sasaki.

"When I became President of Tokyo 2020, I made gender equality one of our key initiatives for restoring everyone's trust," the president said. "To date, I have been striving to carry out this initiative with a sense of urgency. This kind of problem should never happen."

Hashimoto said in the release that staffers pointed out that Sasaki's remarks were inappropriate at the time, and he apologized and acknowledged it was "very insulting to the personality mentioned in the exchange and offered his sincere apologies."

The president said she accepted Sasaki's resignation, and thanked him for his previous contributions to the Games, which were rescheduled to this summer from July-August 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Watanabe responded to Sasaki's reports in a statement, Nippon.com reported, saying, "I am honestly surprised over the (media) reports (about the idea for the ceremony), which are different from what I had first heard about it."

"It is true that I am told I have a large body, and I accept jobs with the understanding that I may be ridiculed for how I look," she said. "But I am actually happy with this body shape, so I want to continue expressing myself as 'Naomi Watanabe' without focusing only on being fat."

Last month, Hashimoto took over as president after the former chief, Yoshiro Mori, stepped down amid backlash over sexist remarks he made. Hashimoto has been involved with the Olympics for a number of years, according to ESPN, as she previously represented Japan at seven Games as both a speed skater and track cyclist — even winning a bronze medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics. The multiseason athlete has also served as an Olympic official.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.