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Around 15 world leaders to attend Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Blue Impulse flies over the main National Stadium, on July 21, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Leaders from around 15 countries and international organizations are slated to visit Japan for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday, down from the roughly 40 that attended the same event for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference about 70 Cabinet-level officials are also set to visit Japan, while adding that the number of foreign VIPs attending the ceremony at the National Stadium on Friday night could remain in flux until the last minute.

    French President Emmanuel Macron and Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene are among the world leaders who have announced their attendance, as has U.S. first lady Jill Biden.

    A senior Foreign Ministry official has said the recent global rage of coronavirus variants has led many leaders to cancel their Japan visits.

    Kato suggested the leaders' visits will provide Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga with a "valuable opportunity to build up personal relationships" at a time when face-to-face diplomacy is being constrained by the pandemic.

    Most of the Tokyo Olympics including the opening ceremony will be held without spectators from the general public as the capital remains under a COVID-19 state of emergency.

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