In a major setback to perhaps the Tokyo Olympics’s public image, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has expressed scepticism about the Games. The reigning US and Australian Open champion said she is "not really sure" the delayed Games should be staged as the Japanese capital is still battling a Covid-19 surge.
The state of emergency declared in Tokyo and various other parts of the country was extended last week. For the organisers it has meant dealing with constant debate on whether the Games should continue. Pressure has been mounting within the country to cancel the global festival.
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"To be honest, I'm not really sure" [if the Games should be held as planned from July 23],” Osaka told the BBC.
"I'm an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics," said the four-time Grand Slam winner.
"But as a human, I would say we're in a pandemic, and if people aren't healthy, and if they're not feeling safe, then it's definitely a really big cause for concern."
Fellow Japanese player Kei Nishikori said he agreed with Osaka adding that the organisers have to "discuss" whether they can hold the delayed Tokyo Olympics safely.
Nishikori, a former World No. 4, said that when one considers the sheer number of athletes coming in for the Games, it will be difficult to host the Olympics safely even behind closed doors.
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"I don't know what they are thinking, and I don't know how much they are thinking about how they are gonna make (a) bubble, because this is not like 100 people like these tournaments," he said after his first-round match at the Italian Open in Rome.
"It's 10,000 people in the village and playing tournaments. So I don't think it's easy, especially (with) what's happening right now in Japan. It's not doing good," he added.
The organisers have barred foreign fans from travelling to Japan for the Games. "If you think only about athletes, I think you can do it," said the 31-year-old who missed last year's US Open after contracting Covid-19.
"If you can make (a) good bubble, maybe you can do it, but there is some risk too. You know, what happens if there are a hundred cases in the village, or can be thousands?"
Nishikori added: "The corona, it's been spreading very easily. So I will say the same as Naomi. You have to really discuss, you know, how you can play really safely to happen."
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