Naomi Osaka: Japanese star makes unexpected comment about Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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Naomi Osaka has revealed she is uncertain whether the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games should be staged this summer.

The four-time Grand Slam winner made the comments while in Rome for the Italian Open, which gets underway tomorrow. The Olympics are scheduled to run in Tokyo from July 23rd to August 8th, but the number of coronavirus cases in Japan are currently on the rise.

“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,” Osaka said, as reported by the Associated Press.

“But I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year. 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.”

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A petition calling for the cancellation of the Olympic Games has garnered more than 311,000 signatures since its creation last week. The petition claims Tokyo 2020 is “unlikely” to be held safely and that it is “highly possible that holding the Olympics will be a super-spreader and worsen the situation that we are currently in.”

Tokyo and several other parts of Japan are currently in a state of emergency due to the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of emergency was declared in April to curb the rise of coronavirus cases, and is expected to be in place until the end of May.

“I feel like whatever makes everyone more comfortable and more safe,” Osaka added. “There’s going to be a lot of people entering the country, so they definitely have to make the right decisions on that. 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.”

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The 23-year-old Osaka has lived in the United States since she was three, but chose to represent her birth country Japan on the international stage. She will be considered a medal favourite for the hosts at Tokyo 2020.

Her next tournament is the Italian Open this week, where she has received a bye into the round of 32 as the second seed. Osaka has not performed too well recently on a clay court, however, exiting last week's Madrid Open in the round of 32. 

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