Japan former PM Abe to miss Games opening ceremony – media

Jul 21, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Members of the media tour the teamLab Borderless immersive digital art museum before the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Network

TOKYO, July 22 (Reuters) – Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who memorably dressed up as the titular plumber from the Super Mario video game to promote the Tokyo Olympics in Rio, will not attend the opening ceremony, public broadcaster NHK and other media reported.

Abe played an outsized role in attracting the Olympics to Tokyo, pledging in front of a banquet room full of International Olympic Committee members in 2013 that the lingering nuclear disaster at Fukushima was “under control” and pitching his nation as a “passionate, proud, and a strong believer” in the Olympics.

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

Still, the opening ceremony on Friday, which normally stands as a major showcase of the host nation, is set to be a subdued affair, with Japanese media reporting that less than 950 people – including only around 15 global leaders – are set to attend.

With surging COVID-19 cases in and around Tokyo, organisers 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 she might also use her attendance to discuss vaccines with Suga.

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