TOKYO (AFP) – A composer for the Tokyo Olympic opening ceremony has apologised after an outcry over old interviews in which he discussed bullying disabled schoolmates, the latest scandal for organisers.

The outcry, just six days before the Games open on July 23, comes after the resignations of several key Tokyo 2020 officials in the run-up to the Olympics, including former chief Yoshiro Mori who stepped down over sexist comments.

The latest furore involves the musician Keigo Oyamada, known as Cornelius, who is among the composers for the music for the opening ceremony.

After his involvement in the music for the opening ceremony began to circulate online earlier this week, interviews from the mid-1990s reemerged in which he discussed, without apparent remorse, his bullying of schoolmates with handicaps.

The bullying and his remarks sparked outrage online, and prompted Oyamada to issue a statement expressing “deep regret” about both his behaviour and his comments.

“I apologise from the bottom of my heart,” he said in a statement on his website.

Tokyo 2020 organisers in a statement said they had not been aware of the remarks “but they are inappropriate”. But they noted Oyamada “himself regrets, and has had second thoughts about the remarks made at the time of the interview”. They said Oyamada had made “enormous” contributions to the opening ceremony and that they hoped he would “devote his energy” to final preparations for the event, describing him as someone with “high ethical standards”.

The scandal is only the latest personnel headache for organisers, who have already weathered the resignation of their former chief Mori, who stepped down in February after claiming women speak too much in meetings.

The creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies, Hiroshi Sasaki, also opted to resign in March after suggesting a plus-size female comedian appear as a pig.

With less than a week until the Games open, organisers are battling to convince the public and athletes that the Olympics will be safe.

Tokyo is under a coronavirus state of emergency, with fans banned from almost all Olympic competition, and the first Covid-19 case in the Olympic Village was reported on Saturday.

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