The Imperial princess, who graduated from Girton College in 1975, delivered Tokyo’s opening speech to the International Olympic Committee in perfect BBC English that pushed every single button among the 100 or so industrials, royals and ex-Olympians who make up the membership of sport’s most elite club.
Tokyo 2020 had to jump through hoop after to hoop to satisfy the Japanese Imperial family that protocol would allow the princess to come to Buenos Aires to support the bid, and it will be hugely grateful its pleas were answered.
Not only did she make a significant impact in meeting IOC members in the 24 hours before the vote, but her speech demonstrated just the kind of humble gratitude to the Olympic movement that the IOC love.
She told the members: “I am more than pleased that it has fallen to me to personally convey our heartfelt thanks for the IOC’s assistance after the tsunami. This is the first time a member of the Imperial family has addressed you, and I dare to hope that our paths may cross again.”
Aged 60, Hisako became fluent in English as a child, accompanying her father, the Japanese industrialist Shigejiro Tottori, on his trips to Britain. After studying anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge, she began working as an interpreter for the Imperial family, and met her future husband Prince Takamado Norihito at a drinks party at the Canadian embassy.
That embassy was also to play a tragic role in the Prince’s early death aged 47 — he died of a heart attack while playing squash against the Canadian ambassador. The princess’ contribution was an important riposte to Madrid’s royal star, Crown Prince Felipe, who also made a rousing final speech.