TOKYO - Japanese Emperor Naruhito will attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, the Imperial Household Agency said Tuesday, as organizers of the global sporting event enter the final stage of preparations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency said Empress Masako will not take part in the ceremony on Friday at the National Stadium, as the organizers have been aiming to reduce the number of attendees to prevent the spread of the virus.
It also said the emperor will meet with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on Thursday at the Imperial Palace.
Japan is making arrangements for the emperor, honorary patron of the Olympics and Paralympics, to declare the games open during the ceremony, according to officials familiar with the planning.
The organizing committee made the request dated Wednesday last week for the 61-year-old emperor to attend the ceremony, according to the agency.
However, imperial family members will not watch other Olympic events at venues after the organizers made the unprecedented decision earlier this month to stage almost all of them behind closed doors as Tokyo struggles to contain surging COVID-19 infections, according to officials at the agency.
The Olympic Charter stipulates that the host country's head of state proclaims the games open.
Emperor Naruhito is the third emperor to have accepted the role of honorary patron and the first to have assumed it for both the Olympics and Paralympics.
His father, Emperor Akihito, declared the opening of the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, while his grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, proclaimed the start of both the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games and the 1972 Sapporo Winter Games.