Tokyo Olympics ceremonies chief resigns over 'pig' insult to female comedian

Agencies
March 18, 2021

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Tokyo, Mar 18: The creative director for Tokyo's Olympic ceremonies announced his resignation on Thursday for proposing a plus-size female comedian appear as a pig, just weeks after the postponed Games' chief stepped down in a sexism row.

Hiroshi Sasaki announced his decision after a report on Wednesday revealed his suggestion about Naomi Watanabe, a hugely popular celebrity, for the opening ceremony.

It is just the latest headache for organisers of the coronavirus-delayed Games, who are struggling for public support mid-pandemic and were left reeling by former chief Yoshiro Mori's sexist remarks last month.'

In a statement released early Thursday, Sasaki apologised to Watanabe and said he understood his proposal had been inappropriate.

"My idea would be a huge insult to Ms Naomi Watanabe. This can't be taken back," he said.

"I regret this from the bottom of my heart, and I deeply apologise to her and everyone who felt discomfort over this," he added.

Sasaki said he had spoken to Tokyo Olympics chief Seiko Hashimoto, who replaced Mori last month, to inform her he would be stepping down.

The scandal erupted on Wednesday evening, when a local magazine reported that Sasaki last year suggested to colleagues that Watanabe could appear at the Olympic opening ceremony as an "Olympig", wearing pig ears.

The proposal, made in a group chat, was immediately rejected by Sasaki's colleagues, who told him it was inappropriate.

Sasaki was initially appointed to take charge of the Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies, but became creative director for the Olympic extravaganzas in December.

Watanabe is a feted celebrity in Japan, and is known to international fans in part thanks to an appearance on the celebrated makeover show "Queer Eye".

The comedian and model, who fronts campaigns for products from clothing to skincare, has more than nine million followers on Instagram.

She is one of the few prominent plus-size figures among Japan's celebrities, and has faced insults in the past. She has not yet commented on the latest row.

There was also no immediate comment from the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, though Hashimoto is expected to address the issue at a press conference on Thursday.

The row comes at a sensitive time for the Games after the firestorm that erupted when former Tokyo 2020 chief Mori said women speak too much in meetings.

Mori eventually stepped down, with former Olympic minister Hashimoto appointed his successor, but the scandal was hugely damaging for organisers, who have now moved to improve the gender balance on their board.

It was the latest in a number of public relations setbacks for the Olympics, including a plagiarism row over the Games' original logo and public anger over a $2 billion design for the main stadium, which was later scaled back.

In 2019, the head of Japan's Olympic committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, stepped down after he was charged by French magistrates probing $2.3 million in payments made before and after Tokyo secured hosting rights.

Organisers are facing public scepticism over holding the Games this year, and are due to make a key decision on whether to allow foreign fans to attend.

They are widely expected to announce next week that overseas spectators will be barred, with limits on domestic fans still to be decided.

Organisers insist the Games can still go ahead and have released a series of rulebooks they say will ensure virus safety.

The Olympic torch relay is due to kick off on March 25, though spectators are barred from the launch ceremony and first leg, with those lining the route elsewhere banned from cheering and crowding, and required to wear masks. 

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coastaldigest.com news network
April 8,2021

Kasarsgod, Apr 8: BJP Kerala Unit President K Surendran has alleged that there has been widespread irregularities in the collection of postal votes of the recently held Assembly election in the state.

Speaking to the media here on Thursday, Mr Surendran said many postal votes were collected in open cover without sealing them. This is in contravention of norms and opens up possibilities for manipulations.

He said neither the candidates nor their agents were informed the count of postal ballots under each constituency nor there is a total and clear count of postal votes.

It is the duty and responsibility of the Election Commission to ensure safety and transparency of postal votes, Mr Surendran said.

There are more chances for manipulation of special postal votes introduced for the 80-plus and others this time. Most of the officials who collected this belonged to the Left unions and had resorted to malpractice, he alleged.

The lose method of collecting such votes had helped the officials to manipulate the system, he added.

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News Network
April 4,2021

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Hyderabad, Apr 4: Former India skipper and Hyderabad Cricket Association president, Mohammed Azharuddin on Sunday offered the state body's facilities to BCCI to host the upcoming IPL matches in case the games are shifted out of Covid-hit Mumbai.

The BCCI has decided to keep Indore and Hyderabad as stand by venues for the upcoming IPL beginning on April 9 following a massive surge in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai, which is scheduled to host 10 games.

The move came after 10 groundsmen of the Wankhede Stadium and a few event managers had tested positive for the deadly virus.

"In these difficult times there is all the more reasons for us to stand by each other. Hyderabad Cricket Association would like to offer its facilities to @BCCI to ensure that IPL2021 is conducted in safe and secure venues," Azharuddin wrote on his twitter handle.

Mumbai reported 9,108 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday and if things spiral out of control there could be a mini-lockdown.

However, a senior BCCI office-bearer on Saturday exuded confidence of hosting the games in Mumbai even if the situation worsens.

"Look, even if there is a lockdown, the teams are in bio-bubble and also it's a closed-door event. So we are still confident that IPL games in Mumbai will be held as per schedule with Delhi Capitals playing Chennai Super Kings on April 10 on the second day of the tournament," he had said.

"But Hyderabad and Indore are there on stand by in case the situation goes out of hand."

As of now, none of the teams currently in Mumbai -- Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings -- have access to the Wankhede Stadium.

The first match at the Wankhede is scheduled to be held on April 10, with last year's finalists Delhi Capitals taking on three-time champions Chennai Super Kings. 

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News Network
April 7,2021

Mumbai, Apr 7: The Indian Premier League is not only one of the world's most lucrative annual sporting properties but also among the most durable, with not even the lengthening shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic apparently able to stop the Twenty20 juggernaut.

Last year's delayed tournament was shifted to the United Arab Emirates but the 14th edition returns to India, where the coronavirus situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks.

The surge in new cases could yet scupper plans to host the tournament in bio-secure bubbles at six venues across the country, starting on Friday in Chennai and climaxing at the world's largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on May 30.

The Indian cricket board (BCCI), however, is bullish about the chances of pulling it off.

"We did it successfully in Dubai last year. We are confident we are going to do it again this time," BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly told the press.

Champions Mumbai Indians, captained by Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore get the eight-team tournament going at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.

Both teams have already been hit by Covid-19 cases in their camps, however, raising questions over the effectiveness of the health protections afforded to the cricketers by the bubble.

Players will be well compensated for their stint in India as, even without ticket sales, the IPL was still worth $6.19 billion last year, according to financial consultancy firm Duff & Phelps. That was down from $6.78 billion in 2019.

The BCCI would have been left with a $542 million hole in its coffers if it had cancelled its flagship event last year but ended up with record TV and digital viewership.

With curfews currently in force in many Indian states, the IPL can be expected to surpass last year's viewership numbers with cricket fans in the world's second most populous nation set to be glued to TV sets and electronic devices.

Bhairav Shanth, the managing director of global sport consulting firm ITW, said interest among advertisers has been high this year and predicted a windfall for broadcasters because of the "tremendous" pull of the IPL.

"For a tournament that is having another edition barely six months removed from the last one, the appetite has been fantastic," Shanth told Reuters. "In 2020, there was a slight dip in deal volume and sizes.

"But now as we see this edition occupy the prime summer slot with nothing else significant on TV to compete against, we have already seen new partners come on board in the league at a premium of 30-40 per cent from what it was last year."

Even the recent spike in the number of Covid-19 cases has not deterred the cream of world cricket from heading to India, where the T20 World Cup will also be held later this year.

Rajasthan Royals all-rounder Ben Stokes has been delighted to see so many of his England colleagues plying their trade in recent editions of the IPL.

"Being constantly exposed to that is a huge benefit to us as a team, especially with the T20 World Cup coming up at the end of the year in India," he told Sky Sports.

"It's a great chance for the English guys to get more experience in these conditions." 

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