Hiroshima Governor and Mayor to welcome Thomas Bach with Peace Park off-limits to the public

by Fumiyasu Miyano, Staff Writer

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who came to Japan to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will visit the Peace Memorial Park in Naka Ward, Hiroshima on July 16 for the first time as IOC president. Hiroshima Prefecture and the city of Hiroshima, will welcome him, temporarily restricting access to the Peace Memorial Museum and the park, just as they did when U.S. President Barak Obama visited in May 2016. Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui will give him an unusually warm welcome. On July 14, the prefectural government also announced that Mr. Bach would meet with an A-bomb survivor.

Mr. Bach will visit the Peace Memorial Park with Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympics and Paralympics. He will be greeted by Mr. Yuzaki and Mr. Matsui, offer flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, and visit the Peace Memorial Museum. Both local leaders, A-bomb survivor, Takashi Nakamoto, chair of the prefectural assembly, and Haruo Yamada, chair of the city council, will join the meeting, which will be held behind closed doors. A message will also be delivered in his speech.

Due to Mr. Bach’s visit, the city will prohibit the general public from entering certain areas including the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, the Peace Memorial Museum, and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, which are located in the park, between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on July 16. The museum and the hall will be temporarily closed for the same period of time. When the museum reopens, it will close at 8:00 p.m., two hours later than usual on that day alone.

According to the city, there have been three times when the museum was closed because of visits by foreign dignitaries since 2011: when foreign ministers from seven nations and the European Union (EU) took part in the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in April 2016, when U.S. President Barak Obama visited in May 2016, and when Pope Francis visited in November 2019.

Regarding this access restriction, a staff member of the Sports Promotion Division of the Hiroshima City government said, “We’ve made our decision based on the significance of having Hiroshima’s wish for peace conveyed to the world of sports and the need for security required by the IOC and the organizing committee.”

There is a mixture of welcome and confusion over Mr. Bach’s visit to Hiroshima, including the fact that the Olympics will be held amid the declaration of a state of emergency in Tokyo to deal with the new coronavirus.

Both Mr. Yuzaki and Mr. Matsui will welcome him. On the other hand, according to the prefectural government, it received 22 phone calls and e-mails regarding Mr. Bach’s visit from 5:00 p.m. on July 13 to 3:00 p.m. on July 14. All of them were opposed to his coming from Tokyo, where a state of emergency has been declared.

(Originally published on July 15, 2021)