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AKB48 Producer Akimoto to Produce 2020 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

posted on by Eric Stimson
Online petition in opposition to his selection gathers steam

Yasushi Akimoto is a nationally recognized figure in Japan's music industry as both an accomplished songwriter (he wrote Hibari Misora's famous swan song, "Kawa-no Nagare-no You-ni") and producer behind the vast girl group AKB48 and its predecessor, Onyanko Club. He is even reported to be friends with Japan's prime minister, Shinzō Abe. On March 17, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Committee acknowledged his prowess by naming him a member.

"I'd like to help make the Olympics and Paralympics ones everyone will have great memories of," Akimoto said upon his appointment. "I remember being pulled by the hand by my father to go see the 1964 Tokyo Olympics back when I was six." Along with photographer Mika Ninagawa, who shot the music video for the AKB48 song "Heavy Rotation", he will produce the opening ceremony.

The news was largely greeted with delight by the Japanese public, especially the younger demographic. Yet even before Akimoto was formally appointed, an Internet backlash made itself heard. A petition on the site Change.org started by Gee Kawai called for the committee to reconsider its decision. Kawai claims that there is a "silent majority of Japanese who are apprehensive of a future entertainment industry that emphasizes artists without talent who only push marketing and personal branding and set up special interests and exclusive economic zones." While acknowledging that Akimoto boasted of "various glittering accomplishments," he writes that an objective interpretation of Akimoto's projects leads to his appointment symbolizing "the Japanese entertainment industry's further decline" and "a decline in quality of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics." The petition has so far garnered over 11,000 signatures and aims for at least 100,000.

Other noteworthy members named to the Olympic committee include Kōji Murofushi, gold medalist in hammer throw at the 2004 Olympics; Ayumi Tanimoto, gold medalist in women's judo at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics; and Rie Tanaka, silver medalist in women's artistic gymnastics at the 2010 Asian Games (not to be confused with the voice actress of the same name). Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, is the committee's vice chief.

[Via Asahi Shimbun, Japan Today, Change.org, Sanspo.com, and Hachima Kikou; Images from Google+ and Hachima Kikou]

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