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Olympics: Osaka says careful thought needed

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JAPAN’S Naomi Osaka said on Sunday that while she has spent her entire life waiting to compete at the Olympics, the risks of holding the Tokyo Games amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic should continue to be carefully discussed.

Opinion surveys have shown that most Japanese oppose holding the Games this summer due to worries about Covid-19, and Tokyo itself is currently under a state of emergency to tame a rise in infections.

Osaka, the world number two women’s tennis player and one of Japan’s top athletes, said staging the Games should remain a topic of discussion as long as the subject was “making people very uncomforta­ble”.

“Of course I want the Olympics to happen, but I think there’s so much important stuff going on, especially the past year,” she said. “A lot of unexpected things have happened.

“For me, I feel like if it’s putting people at risk ... then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now. At the end of the day, I’m just an athlete, and there is a whole pandemic going on, so, yeah.”

Japan has recorded more than 600 000 Covid-19 cases and more than 10 500 deaths, but its inoculatio­n campaign has been relatively slow so far, with only about 2% of the population of about 126 million having received at least one vaccine dose.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga promised on Friday to fast-track the government’s vaccinatio­n drive, saying it aimed to administer 1 million shots a day.

Osaka, who at the age of 23 has won both the US Open and Australian Open twice, said she had already been vaccinated against Covid-19, and added that it would not be right to “force” people to get inoculated.

“There is going to be a lot of people entering the country, so they definitely have to make the right decisions on that,” she said.

“I’ve gotten vaccinated, (but) I think that at the end of the day, you can’t force anyone to be vaccinated.”

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NAOMI Osaka

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