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Olympics Opening Ceremony Composer Steps Down And Apologizes For Bullying

Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada, who performs as Cornelius, in Tokyo in 2014.
Atsushi Tomura
Getty Images
Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada, who performs as Cornelius, in Tokyo in 2014.

Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada, who performs under the name Cornelius, has resigned from the Tokyo Olympics after being criticized on social media for having bullied children with disabilities while he was himself a student.

Oyamada – who as Corneliusappeared in a 2018 Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music – had written a composition to be played at the start of the Olympic opening ceremony. It's unclear at this point how his resignation will impact the event, which is scheduled to take place Friday at 8 P.M. Tokyo time.

Critics recently uncovered interviews the now 52-year-old Oyamada did in the 1990s, in which he proclaimed that "without any regrets" he had bullied people, including classmates with disabilities, during his childhood. These include articles published in Rockin'On Japan in 1994 and Quick Japan in 1995.

According to Kyodo News, the Olympics organizing committee said that though they had previously decided to allow him to stay in his Olympics post, "this decision was wrong," and that Oyamada's resignation should be accepted after all.

Oyamada is also resigning from the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, which will begin on Aug. 24.

In a tweet posted Monday, Cornelius apologized in Japanese for his past behavior, writing that he "lacked consideration for various people," and promised to alter his future actions and "ways of thinking."

In past years, the opening ceremony has been one of the most popular elements of the Olympics for a television audience. The opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang earned 28.3 million viewers in the U.S. — which NBC has said was the biggest Friday night audience for any broadcast on any network since the 2014 Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
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