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Former Japan PM Abe to miss Games opening ceremony

TOKYO: Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (pix), who unforgettably disguised himself as a Super Mario video game character to advertise the Tokyo Olympics in Rio, will not be attending the Olympics opening ceremony, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Abe played a huge role in attracting the Tokyo Olympics, promising in front of a banquet hall full of International Olympic Committee members in 2013 that the protracted nuclear disaster at Fukushima was “under control” and called his country “passionate, proud and strong believer” in The Olympics. He resigned last year for health reasons and is expected to be replaced as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

However, the opening ceremony, scheduled for Friday, will be held in a low-key manner, with Japanese media reporting that fewer than 950 people are expected to attend – mostly dignitaries, including fewer than 20 world leaders.

The opening ceremony is usually the host country’s main demonstration, but due to the sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in and around Tokyo, organizers are excluding spectators at most Olympic events.

NHK said Abe chose not to attend the ceremony after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency and restrictions on the spread of viruses in Tokyo to minimize health risks to residents and visitors.

Covid-19 infections have skyrocketed in the capital and are projected to grow further, straining healthcare providers.

The Japanese, only a third of whom have received at least one dose of the vaccine, are worried that the Olympics could be a superproliferation event.

In a recent poll by the Asahi newspaper, 68 percent of respondents expressed doubts about the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infection, with 55 percent saying they oppose the Games. – Reuters

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