Emperor Naruhito is set to open the Olympic Games in Tokyo at the Opening Ceremony on 23 July, according to various Japanese media reports.
An official with knowledge of the situation spoke anonymously to the Japan Times, saying the Emperor is likely to attend the Opening Ceremony and declare the Games open next week. There are also plans in place for him to meet with foreign dignitaries at the Imperial Palace who travel to Japan for the sporting event.
Emperor Naruhito, 61, is the Honorary Patron of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
The Olympic Charter says that the head of state of the host country proclaims the Games open. He won’t be the first royal in recent memory to open the Olympic Games as Queen Elizabeth II opened the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Emperor Naruhito’s father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito declared the Games open for the 1998 Nagano Winter Games; the Emperor’s grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, opened both the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games and the 1972 Sapporo Winter Games.
Members of the Imperial Family are not expected to attend any events as Tokyo is in a state of emergency due to the global health situation. The Olympics have said that most events will take place without spectators to curb the spread of the virus.
The Emperor is said to be concerned with the possibility of the Olympic Games causing a further spread of COVID-19. In a press conference last month, the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency, Yasuhiko Nishimura, said that Naruhito had expressed his concern over the games.
“His Majesty is extremely worried about the current situation of the COVID-19 infections. While there are voices of unease among the public, I believe [the Emperor] is concerned that holding the Olympics and Paralympics … may lead to the expansion of the infections,” he said.