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Olympics: Osaka says careful thought needed


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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