TOKYO — The Japanese musical maverick who composed some of the score for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics has apologized after revelations that he bullied disabled classmates recently resurfaced.
The composer, Keigo Oyamada, also known as "Cornelius," boasted to Japanese magazines in the 1990s about how he had tormented fellow students. The boasts came back to haunt him less than a week before the games are to kick off Friday.
Back in the 1990s, when his star was still on the rise, Oyamada, now 52, recalled in interviews with local music magazines that he would, among other things, force a mentally disabled boy to eat his own feces and masturbate in front of other students.
"These reflections were not looked back on regretfully, but instead were seen as funny childhood moments," the popular blog ARAMA! JAPAN wrote. "He spoke of them in a boastful nature."
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Often compared to pioneering American musicians like Beck and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, Oyamada is best known in Japan as one of the originators of the kitschy Shibuya-kei sound, which drew heavily on American pop music from the 1960s produced by the likes of Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector.
He said that he was "very immature" when he preyed on his classmates and that he felt "deep regret" about for what he did. He said he understood why some might object to his participation in the games.
"I apologize and I will try to be a better person," he wrote.
On social media, critics were far from forgiving. "How can a person who committed such discriminatory and violent acts considered qualified for getting involved in Olympic and Paralympic Games?" a person posted on Twitter.
The revelation and Oyamada's public apology appeared to catch organizers by surprise.
"We understand that he apologized and it is true that we didn't know about this," Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee, said Saturday at a news conference.
But Muto said organizers have no plans to ban Oyamada or his music. "We wish him to continue with his participation," Muto said, adding, "He is sorry for his past actions, and he has said that he wants to act with higher moral standards."
NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News, owns the U.S. broadcasting rights to the games.
It is not the first storm the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee has had to contend with since it announced that it would restart the games, which were derailed last year by the coronavirus pandemic.
In February, the president of the committee, Yoshiro Mori, was forced out after he said female sports officials talk too much during meetings. A month later, the games' creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, was ousted for comparing Japanese celebrity Naomi Watanabe to a pig.
Organizers are staging the games while Tokyo is in a state of emergency — and in the face of polls that show that many Japanese fear that the arriving athletes will worsen the Covid-19 crisis in the country.
Two athletes already bunking in the Olympic Village tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, a day after a games organizer became the first foreigner in the sealed-off section of Tokyo to test positive for the virus.