Princess denies politics behind speech at IOC session

September 13, 2013

By RYUICHI KITANO/ Staff Writer

Princess Hisako said her speech that opened Tokyo's final and bid-winning presentation at the International Olympic Committee’s session in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7 to choose the host of the 2020 Summer Games was in no way meant to be political.

"Different people may have taken it differently, but the decision (for me to deliver the speech) was made by the Imperial Household Agency," Hisako told The Asahi Shimbun in an interview on Sept. 11. "I did not meet any of the bid committee officials beforehand."

The princess was referring to questions, raised by some, that her speech was part of Tokyo's successful bid at the 125th IOC session to host the Games and therefore compromised the political neutrality expected from imperial family members.

Answering questions from an Asahi Shimbun reporter, she continued, "My husband (the late Prince Takamado, a cousin of Emperor Akihito) used to say that imperial family members live in the public eye and should always think of the well-being of the general public. I believe they should refrain from taking active positions on decisions that may have a major impact on people's lives, such as the Olympics, and refrain from engendering undue influence in one direction or another."

Hisako explained how her visit to the IOC session came about: "The Imperial Household Agency asked me to pay the visit to express my gratitude to the IOC for extending assistance to areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and for inviting young people from the devastated regions to the 2012 London Olympics," she said, referring to the magnitude-9.0 temblor that rocked northeastern Japan and spawned a towering tsunami that wiped out entire coastal communities on March 11, 2011.

The Imperial Household Agency initially said Hisako would attend a reception ahead of the IOC session but not the session itself.

"The Imperial Household Agency made the decision (for me to attend the session) following talks with the sports ministry," Hisako said. "Looking back on it, I feel happy to have been able to express my gratitude to all of the IOC members while Jacques Rogge still held the presidency."

The Imperial Household Agency said the princess would leave the podium after her speech, which she also did not do.

"I was informed the sports minister made the decision (to stay) at the last minute after being told that remaining on the podium once on it was IOC tradition," Hisako said. "I didn't want to hinder the efforts of the bid committee members."

By RYUICHI KITANO/ Staff Writer
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Princess Hisako responds to a reporter's questions in the residence she shared with the late Prince Takamado in the Moto-Akasaka district of Tokyo on Sept. 11. (Ryuichi Kitano)

Princess Hisako responds to a reporter's questions in the residence she shared with the late Prince Takamado in the Moto-Akasaka district of Tokyo on Sept. 11. (Ryuichi Kitano)

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  • Princess Hisako responds to a reporter's questions in the residence she shared with the late Prince Takamado in the Moto-Akasaka district of Tokyo on Sept. 11. (Ryuichi Kitano)

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