Naomi Osaka, a Japanese tennis player, said on Sunday that she supports a “discussion” about the Olympic Games, which are being held as Tokyo deals with a recent coronavirus outbreak.
A virus state of emergency was declared in Japan’s capital city and other areas of the world on Friday, less than three months before the postponed Games are set to begin.
The Japanese public has been putting increasing pressure on the government to cancel the Olympics, which were already delayed from their initial dates last summer owing to the pandemic.
“For me, I feel like 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,” the four-time Grand Slam winner said ahead of the Rome WTA tournament.
“Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I have been waiting for my entire life.
“But I think that there is so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year, I think a lot of unexpected things have happened.
“At the end of the day I’m just an athlete, and there is a whole pandemic going on.”
More than 10,000 athletes from 200 countries and regions are set to travel to Tokyo for the Games, with a decision on how many domestic fans — if any — can attend to be taken in June.
More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition titled “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives”, launched Wednesday by a lawyer and former Tokyo gubernatorial candidate.
Japan’s has recorded just over 10,500 deaths from Covid-19, much lower than in many other countries, but its vaccine rollout is moving slowly and some areas have seen record cases as more infectious variants drive fresh waves of contagion.
Australian Open champion Osaka confirmed that she had been vaccinated.
“I have gotten vaccinated, so I think that at the end of the day you can’t force anyone to be vaccinated, but I think if you’re going into the Olympics and whatever makes the host country happy,” she continued.
“For me I feel like whatever makes everyone more comfortable and more safe, and I think that, you know, there is going to be a lot of people entering the country so they definitely have to make the right decisions on that.”