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On Thursday, on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito acknowledged the great difficulties associated with organizing the Games amid the coronavirus pandemic, stressing Germany’s International Olympic Committee chairman Thomas Bach, that it is “a task that is not easy at all”, according to the local press.
Bach visited the Imperial Palace on the eve of the opening ceremony, when the emperor is expected to officially announce the start of the Games.
“Managing the matches and taking all measures against COVID-19 is not an easy task,” Naruhito told local news agency Kyodo to Bach in English.
“I would like to pay tribute to everyone involved in the organization of the Games for the efforts they have made in the various facilities,” he added.
The 61-year-old emperor will attend the opening ceremony on Friday with only about 950 dignitaries and officials due to strict pandemic-related restrictions preventing crowds as his wife will be absent from the celebration.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was forced last month to deny claims that Naruhito was “concerned” that the Olympics could trigger a COVID-19 outbreak.
Naruhito is expected to announce the opening of the games but reportedly may avoid the word “celebration” given the current epidemiological situation.
The emperor, who took the throne in 2019, is considered the honorary godfather of the Tokyo Olympics.
Emperor Akihito, Naruhito’s father, declared the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano open, while his grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, opened the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games and the 1972 Sapporo Winter Games.
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