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Olympics-Japan, former Prime Minister Abe to miss Games opening ceremony: media by Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), applauds after presenting former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe with the Olympic Order award at the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo, Japan on 16 November 2020. REUTERS / Kim Kyu

By Mari Saito

TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who memorably dressed as the titular plumber of the Super Mario video game to promote the Tokyo Olympics in Rio, will not attend the opening ceremony, the broadcaster reported. public NHK and other media.

Abe played a huge role in bringing the Olympics to Tokyo, promising in front of a banquet hall packed with members of the International Olympic Committee in 2013 that the lingering nuclear disaster in Fukushima was “under control” and presenting his nation as a “passionate , proud, and a firm believer “in the Olympics.

Abe resigned from his post last year for health reasons, and his replacement as prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is expected to attend. Abe’s office could not be immediately reached on Thursday, a public holiday in Japan.

Still, Friday’s opening ceremony, which is typically presented as a huge showcase for the host nation, will be a moderate https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/tokyo-opening-ceremony-will-be- . sobering-show-not-flashy-2021-07-21, with Japanese media reporting that fewer than 950 people, including only around 15 world leaders, are scheduled to attend.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in and around Tokyo, organizers have ruled out spectators at most Olympic events.

First lady Jill Biden is expected to land in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon for the Games opening ceremony, raising expectations that she may also use her assistance to discuss vaccines with Suga.

Biden has been traveling the United States urging more people in the country to get vaccinated.

Suga is preparing to negotiate directly with Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 to obtain early delivery of doses, national media reported Thursday.

Only a third of Japanese have received at least one dose of the vaccine, raising public concern that the Olympics could become a wide-spread event. Already dozens of attendees have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing athletes to withdraw and isolate their teammates.

NHK said Abe decided not to attend the ceremony after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency and virus restrictions in Tokyo, in an effort to minimize health risks among residents and visitors.

COVID-19 infections have risen in the capital and are projected to rise further, putting pressure on healthcare providers.

In a recent poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondents expressed doubts about the Olympic organizers’ ability to control coronavirus infections, and 55% said they were opposed to the Games going ahead.

Olympic competition has already begun, with the Japanese women’s softball team leading the hosts off to a winning start on Wednesday, while the highly ranked US women’s soccer team was teased by Sweden.

More soccer and softball games are scheduled for Thursday.

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