TOKYO — It was few people’s idea of funny.
For the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, its creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, envisioned a popular comedian and plus-size fashion designer, Naomi Watanabe, decked out in pig ears, tumbling from the sky as an Olympic messenger. Or, as he put it, an “Olympig.”
On Thursday, one day after a Japanese magazine revealed that Mr. Sasaki, 66, had shared this idea with colleagues a year ago, he resigned and apologized. His departure came weeks after the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, 83, stepped down after coming under widespread criticism for saying that women talk too much in meetings.
In response to the outrage over Mr. Mori, the organizing committee has been scrambling just months before the start of the Games to place women in leadership positions in an attempt to rectify its image as a stodgy “old men’s club.”
Mr. Sasaki’s quick resignation was a sharp contrast to Mr. Mori’s exit. While Mr. Mori apologized quickly for his sexist comment, he initially said he would not resign, and none of Japan’s top government officials demanded his departure.
In the case of Mr. Sasaki, a former advertising executive who was put in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies in December, he submitted his resignation just hours after the article appeared on the website of Shukan Bunshun, a weekly magazine.
Mr. Sasaki said in a statement on Thursday that he had made his remark in a group chat with colleagues on a messaging app. Several criticized his idea as insulting, he said, and he quoted two of them.
“It’s impossible to compare a woman to a pig,” one said. Another wrote, “Even if that’s a spontaneous idea, you shouldn’t say that.”
Mr. Sasaki said he had taken their responses to heart and had taken back his suggestion. But he did not decide to resign until reporters contacted him for their article.
“Now many people know what I wrote. I cannot apologize enough to Ms. Watanabe,” he said, adding that he was a big fan of hers. “I have been trying not to hurt others by making fun of diversity, gender and physical appearances. But it was a great misunderstanding. I realized my low consciousness and insensitivity.”
Ms. Watanabe, 33, rose to prominence with her swaggering dance performances of Beyoncé songs, and she has been called “the Japanese Beyoncé” in the media. A champion for body positivity in a country that largely prizes thinness in women, she has joked about feeling most liberated when eating ice cream in bed and how a muscular sumo wrestler embodies her ideal body type.
Ms. Watanabe, who has promoted events for the Tokyo Olympics, said she was surprised to hear about Mr. Sasaki’s demeaning idea.
“I work with the understanding that my appearance is ridiculed,” she said in a statement through her agency, Yoshimoto. “In fact, I am happy with my figure. So, as usual, I would like to express myself as ‘Naomi Watanabe’ without overly emphasizing being…