Tokyo Olympics: Naomi Osaka unsure if Japan should host Olympics amid COVID-19 pandemic

Naomi Osaka endorsement portfolio growing, signs big deal with Panasonic
Naomi Osaka endorsement portfolio growing, signs big deal with Panasonic

Tokyo Olympics: With just 74 days left for the Tokyo Olympics, the calls are rising inside Japan to cancel or postpone the Summer Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tokyo has been in a state of emergency with varied restrictions imposed over the last few months with protest over the games growing rapidly. In such a situation, Japan’s tennis star Naomi Osaka said she is conflicted on whether the games should go ahead amid the pandemic.

The World No 2 in women’s tennis rankings, who will play in the Italian Open, said, “Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I’ve been waiting for my entire life. But I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year,” Naomi Osaka said.

“I think a lot of unexpected things have happened and if it’s putting people at risk, and if it’s making people very uncomfortable, then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now,” she added.

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Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for 2020, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, since then, opposition to the games has only risen with over 75% supporting postponement or total cancellation of the quadrennial event. The main concern amongst Japanese citizens is the slow vaccine rollout. At present, only 2% of Japan’s population has been vaccinated with rising cases putting immense pressure on Japan’s healthcare system.

However, the local organisers and the IOC have been adamant about going ahead with Tokyo Olympics that is scheduled to start on July 23 despite opposition. IOC Vice President and the Head of the IOC’s coordination commission, John Coates, said there was no chance of postponing the games.

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“No, there’s not (chance of postponement). The prime minister of Japan said that to the president of the United States two or three weeks ago. He continues to say that to the IOC. We’re working with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on all of the safety measures. It’s going ahead,” John Coates told AFP.

To go on with the plans of the Tokyo Olympics, the IOC has tied up with vaccine manufacturer Pfizer and BioNTech to immunize all the athletes heading to Tokyo in July. The company will donate vaccine doses.

“At the end of the day I’m just an athlete and there’s a whole pandemic going on. I feel like whatever makes everyone more comfortable and more safe. There’s going to be a lot of people entering the country, so they definitely have to make the right decisions on that,” Naomi Osaka said.

“I’ve gotten vaccinated. At the end of the day, you can’t force anyone to be vaccinated. If you’re going into the Olympics and whatever, make the host country happy,” Naomi Osaka added.

On Sunday, when an Olympic test event was conducted, people flocked to the National Stadium in Tokyo to protest IOC and the Japanese government’s decision to go ahead with the Olympics.