Tokyo 2020 'axed opening ceremony musician for being black'

Latyr Sy
Latyr Sy

A musician claims he was cut from the Olympic opening ceremony because he was black, as organisers face a third staffing row in a week.

Latyr Sy, a Senagalese percussionist based in Japan for 20 years, accused organisers of racism after he was booked and then cancelled for inclusion at the curtain-raiser.

“It’s totally racist,” Mr Sy reportedly said: “I was told they said ‘Why this guy? Why this African guy?’

"I’ve seen a lot of stuff, I’ve felt a lot of things, but this just doesn’t fit with the Olympics. Why should I be silent?”

Tokyo 2020 failed to respond to requests for comment from the Telegraph on the allegations on Friday.

The claim comes just a day after organisers dismissed the show's director over a joke about the Holocaust.

Kentaro Kobayashi's comments in a 1998 comedy sketch prompted a grovelling apology from the latest Olympic chief, Seiko Hashimoto.

The troubled opening ceremony was already dealing with the 11th hour headache of replacing a composer forced to step down at the weekend over historic bullying and abuse of disabled children.

Mr Sy had told the Independent website he was booked by a third party for the ceremony in December, sent the rehearsal schedule in April, but then eventually told by a PR company that organisers had rejected hiring him on the basis of his African heritage.

He said he saw a rehearsal on television and realised his section of the show had also scrapped another Senegalese musician due to appear.

“When I saw it I just felt sad,” he said. “I’m from a small island, a slave island called Goree. I lived in this country for more than 20 years and this scandalous Olympics… it hurts," he told the website, adding that he was "not trying to blame anybody".

Mr Sy, who was also contacted by The Telegraph, had previously travelled internationally to play on behalf of the Japanese government.

The saga facing organisers this week came after creative chief Hiroshi Sasaki quit in March after suggesting that plus-size comedian Naomi Watanabe could appear as an "Olympig".

In February, Yoshiro Mori was forced to step down after saying women talked too much.

With largely empty stands due to a spectator ban, the event had already been plagued by Covid-19 difficulties. Just 23 of the 375 British athletes in Tokyo showed up on Friday night.