U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said he intends to visit Hiroshima in August a few days before attending the closing ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, instead of the opening ceremony, sources close to the matter said Sunday.
The plan reflects Guterres’ desire to highlight calls by the U.N. for a “nuclear-free world,” by using the opportunity of the event aimed at building a peaceful and better world through sport, the sources said.
Guterres is expected to deliver his message at the annual memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, marking the 75th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the western city, before attending the Olympics closing ceremony three days later.
U.N. chiefs have attended the opening ceremonies of every Summer Games since the 1990s. But Guterres told Japanese officials at the U.N. General Assembly in New York in December that he hopes to attend the atomic bomb memorial ceremony in Hiroshima as well as the closing ceremony in Tokyo, the sources said.
While Japan is basically supportive of Guterres visiting Hiroshima, the sources added that some officials in the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee believe he should follow precedent and attend the opening ceremony on July 24.
Guterres would be the second U.N. secretary general to attend the memorial event in Hiroshima, after Ban Ki-moon in 2010.
In August 2018, Guterres became the first U.N. chief to attend the memorial ceremony for the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, which took place three days after the attack on Hiroshima.
In his speech during that ceremony, he called on all countries to commit to nuclear disarmament and make “visible” progress with urgency.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is also planning to visit Hiroshima in May when the torch relay passes through the city.
Pope Francis visited the two cities in November, while in 2016 Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.