Sport Japan's Osaka 'not sure' Olympics should happen as doubts grow
With 1.1% of People Vaccinated, Japan Lags the Developed World
In the race to vaccinate citizens against Covid-19, Japan should be a front-runner. It has nearly universal health care coverage and pharmaceutical prowess, not to mention a pending national election, a large elderly population and the looming Olympics to motivate political leaders to move fast. Yet it has the dubious distinction of being among the worst performers when it comes to inoculations. Japan has given enough doses to cover just 1.1% of its population, the lowest among the 37 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. That compares to 36% in the U.S.
Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka admitted she was "not really sure" the coronavirus-hit Tokyo Olympics should go ahead as doubts grew about the Games just weeks before the opening ceremony.
The four-time tennis Grand Slam winner joined fellow Japanese player Kei Nishikori in raising concerns, with Tokyo and other parts of Japan under a coronavirus state of emergency.
A top politician also warned that Japan still had to make a "careful decision" about whether to hold the Games, which have scant public support according to opinion polls.
Osaka dumped out by Muchova in Madrid second round
Naomi Osaka suffered a second-round exit at the Madrid Open on Sunday as the Japanese second seed lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to Karolina Muchova. Osaka, the reigning US and Australian Open champion, has seven career hard-court titles, but has never managed to lift a clay- court trophy. Playing her first clay-court event since the 2019 French Open, Osaka beat compatriot Misaki Doi in the first round, but she came unstuck against an opponent making her top 20 debut this week.Muchova, who reached the last four in Melbourne this year, used a single break of serve to claim the opening set against the world number two.
Scrapping the 2020 Olympics, postponed last year as the pandemic advanced, is a concept that has never been gone away, despite repeated assertions from officials that they will proceed.
A survey by a leading Japanese daily released on Monday found 59 percent of respondents want the Olympics cancelled, underlining persistent public concerns over the risk of infections.
Osaka, Japan's biggest sports star and a major gold-medal prospect, said "to be honest, I'm not really sure", when asked if the Olympics should take place as planned.
"I'm an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics," the four-time Grand Slam winner told the BBC.
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"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."
Nishikori said there "definitely should be a discussion" on whether Tokyo should plough ahead with the Olympics.
"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.
"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."
- 'So much to think about' -
America's Serena Williams, who has 23 Grand Slam titles -- one off the all-time record -- as well as four Olympic golds, said she was yet to commit to Tokyo.
Osaka frustrated at clay court 'mental block'
Naomi Osaka conceded she found playing outside her comfort zone on clay frustrating as the world number two continues her warm-up for the French Open at the WTA tournament in Rome. "I'm not sure if I should be telling you this, but I'm just not that comfortable on it (clay) still, and I'm not sure if it's because I need to play longer on it or if I just haven't grown up on it," Osaka told a press conference in Rome on Sunday. Osaka has played just two matches on clay since the 2019 French Open having skipped last year's Grand Slam because of injury."Mentally it's a bit harder because you have to structure the points differently," she continued.
"I haven't spent 24 hours without her (three-year-old daughter Olympia) so that kind of answers the question itself," she said at the WTA tournament in Rome.
"I haven't really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it's this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about."
Athletes until now have largely stayed quiet about the Olympics, in contrast to last year when there was a welter of complaints before the historic postponement in March.
A series of test events have been cancelled, postponed or held behind closed doors, underlining the challenges facing organisers.
However, Olympic officials insist the Games can still be held safely and have released rulebooks they say will ensure the biggest international event since the pandemic does not spread the virus.
On Monday, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach was forced to cancel a visit to Japan planned for this month, after the state of emergency was extended last week.
Toshihiro Nikai, number two in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Japan needed to take advice from "Olympic experts" before deciding whether to hold the Games.
"A careful decision will be necessary in the future," he said late on Monday, according to the Jiji Press news agency.
He was speaking after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who came to power in September, insisted he has "never put the Olympics first", stressing his priority is "the lives and health of the Japanese people".
Cancel the Olympics? Japanese people say yes, IOC says no .
Backed by 350,000 signatures, amid a state of emergency, it arrived at Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s desk with a simple message. Despite growing opposition, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organizing committee have repeatedly said that the Games are on. “Our experts are satisfied that it can be done,” Dick Pound, the IOC’s longest-serving member, told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. The Japanese government and organizing committee agree, Pound said, that “we can do this, and we should do it.” But a series of minor cancellations and COVID-related alterations have stimulated external concern that plans could still crumble.