Japan's emperor to attend Olympics opening ceremony

21 July 2021 | Sports

NAMPA /AFP

Japan's Emperor Naruhito will attend the opening ceremony of the virus-delayed Tokyo Olympics, his office said yesterday.

But Empress Masako will not take part in the ceremony on Friday, which will be held without spectators in the presence of around 1 000 VIPs at the Olympic Stadium, an Imperial Household Agency official told AFP.

While the 61-year-old emperor holds no political power, he is an important symbolic figure in Japan.

Last month, the prime minister dismissed claims that Naruhito was "concerned" the Olympics could spread Covid-19 instead attributing the opinion to an agency representative.

Local media reports said Naruhito will declare the Games open, but the official said it was not immediately known if he will speak at the opening ceremony.

The emperor, who took the throne in 2019, is the honorary patron of the Tokyo Olympics.

Imperial family members are unlikely to watch any other Olympic events, which will almost all take place behind closed doors to limit infections, reports said.

On Thursday, Naruhito will receive a courtesy visit at the Imperial Palace from senior officials of the International Olympic Committee, including its president Thomas Bach, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The emperor will also host foreign leaders and guests at the palace on Friday, NHK said.

Naruhito's father, then Emperor Akihito, proclaimed the start of the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, while his grandfather, then Emperor Hirohito, declared the opening of both the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games and the 1972 Sapporo Winter Games.

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