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23 Jul, 2021 11:37

‘It’s totally racist’: Senegalese musician claims he was removed from Olympics opening ceremony ‘because he is black’

‘It’s totally racist’: Senegalese musician claims he was removed from Olympics opening ceremony ‘because he is black’

Senegalese musician Latyr Sy, who has lived in Japan for two decades, has accused Olympic organizers of racism, claiming he was removed from the opening ceremony because they didn't want to feature a black man in the show.

Sy had been set to perform during Friday's opening ceremony in Tokyo but said that he was informed by organizers that he was being removed from the festivities because they feared that featuring a black face in the event would compel them to feature a host of other ethnicities, according to a report by The Independent.

He claims that he was asked to perform at the show as far back as December, and in April had been sent a rehearsal schedule which asked him to set aside dates to perform, while also being requested to turn down any other work he was offered which may have clashed with his Olympic dates. Sy says he was also asked to take his temperature daily and keep a log of any potential Covid symptoms.

He then says he was notified in May by a PR company associated with the event that he was being removed from the show after organizers allegedly expressed hesitation in including a black African man in the ceremony.

"It’s totally racist," Sy 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?

"When I saw it I just felt sad," he added. "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.

"I’m afraid to talk but I’m just ready to let it out. I want to share my story. I’m not trying to blame anybody, we just have to let the people know this happened."

Sy said that he had previously been invited to play alongside numerous Japanese musicians, and had even performed abroad at the behest of the Japanese government – which he said made the decision to remove him from the opening ceremony a bizarre one.

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"It’s not about the money, it’s just I feel sad and I feel disappointed about this," he said. "This is unfair. I did everything for this country. I arrived in 1994, I performed with Japanese artists everywhere, I participate in so many things. I went all over the world. And this is what I get."

The allegations made by Sy are the latest negative publicity to hit the Tokyo Games, coming just days after the director of the opening ceremony, Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired after old footage of him making light of the holocaust was discovered.

Its musical composer, Keigo Oyamada, also resigned amid allegations that he had boasted about bullying classmates in a recent interview, while in March the event's creative chief Hiroshi Sasaki was also forced to resign after referring to female comedian Naomi Watanabe as an "Olympig".

In February, more than 400 female volunteers for the Olympics opted out of participating amid comments from the 83-year-old organizing committee member Yoshiro Mori which were categorized as "sexist" after he said meetings involving women would "take a lot of time" because they "talk too much".

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