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Under-fire Olympic composer steps down over past bullying

Reports of the Olympic composer's past abuse of classmates, including those with disabilities, surfaced online recently and sparked a backlash on social media plus demands for his resignation.

Tokyo OlympicsInternational Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, center, bows to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during his courtesy call at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo)

Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese composer working on the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, resigned on 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 his resignation.

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Games organizers said on Sunday that 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”, saying their earlier decision to let him 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.

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 to the American rock musician Beck, talked about the abuse in Japanese magazine interviews he gave in the 1990s.

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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.”

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 a Japanese actress should dress as a pig.

First published on: 19-07-2021 at 08:58:32 pm
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