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Ruling party lawmakers split over Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony attendance

This photo shows the Japan National Stadium, where the opening ceremony will be held, on Feb. 4, 2021. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

TOKYO -- Legislators belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are split over whether to attend the Olympics opening ceremony amid ongoing criticism of the games as the number of coronavirus infections increases.

    While criticism over the staging of the event during the pandemic has made some legislators reluctant to attend, others involved in the Tokyo 2020 bid remain set on going. At the same time, many sponsors have decided not to send officials to the ceremony.

    Organizers have decided to hold the opening ceremony without spectators, but people involved with the games are permitted to attend under a separate slot. Emperor Naruhito is due to be there, as are officials from the legislative, administrative and judicial branches of the government including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Legislators with deep connections to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have also been asked to attend under the slot for related officials.

    One veteran LDP official who said they went to meet officials from various countries when Tokyo was making its bid to host the games indicated they would attend the ceremony with other legislators who were involved in the work. "The ceremony won't happen if I don't go," they commented.

    But due to criticism of the games amid the spread of COVID-19 and the fact that many sporting and other events including the opening ceremony are being held without spectators, one source close to the LDP divulged, "There are few people who say they want to attend."

    One senior LDP official who had been asked to go to the games' opening ceremony commented, "If someone took a photo of me in the stands I would be criticized without a doubt. I decided not to go."

    Senior members of Komeito, the LDP's junior ruling coalition partner, do not plan to attend, and the party's policy chief, Yuzuru Takeuchi, matter-of-factly commented in a July 21 news conference that he had "not heard" that any official from his party would be in attendance.

    Meanwhile, the leaders of opposition parties have not been invited to the opening ceremony at all. These include Yukio Edano of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Kazuo Shii of the Japanese Communist Party, who have called for the postponement or cancellation of the games, as well as Ichiro Matsui of Nippon Ishin no Kai (the Japan Innovation Party), who has supported the games going ahead. Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, who requested that the games be held without spectators, disclosed in a July 16 news conference that he had not been invited to the opening ceremony, and said, "I think I'll watch it from home. I'd like to make it a 'stay home Olympics.'"

    (Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka and Shu Furukawa, Political News Department)

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