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Naomi Osaka is slated to make her Olympics debut when the games finally kick off in July, something she's worked for her whole career. But even with the chance to represent Japan, she told the Associated Press that she's not sure if the Tokyo Olympics should be held in the middle of a pandemic.
“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 Sunday while competing at the Italian Open.
“But I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year,” she added. “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.”
It's definitely a discussion in Japan, where there's been a significant amount of pushback to holding the rescheduled Olympics in July. Only 2 percent of the Japanese population has been vaccinated, and that number may not be much higher by the time the Olympics kick off on July 23. With tens of thousands of athletes, officials, press, federation members, and more streaming into Japan from foreign countries, there's a concern about the safety of the people who actually live in Tokyo.
Osaka hopes athletes get vaccinated to help host country
Osaka revealed to reporters on Sunday that she's been vaccinated, and while she hopes that other athletes do the same, she recognizes that the International Olympic Committee can't make vaccination a requirement before everyone travels to Tokyo.
“I feel like whatever makes everyone more comfortable and more safe. There’s going to be a lot of people entering the country, so [the IOC] definitely have to make the right decisions on that,” Osaka said via the AP. “I’ve gotten vaccinated. At the end of the day you can’t force anyone to be vaccinated."
But then Osaka added: “If you’re going into the Olympics and whatever, make the host country happy.”
Despite the widespread concern — including a number of protests that have been held — IOC officials and local organizers have repeatedly said that the Olympics will start as scheduled on July 23.
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