The pandemic forced the 2020 Games to be postponed by a year, and organizers are determined that they will take place even as Japanese citizens have lost enthusiasm. Recent polls show that anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of people favor the cancellation or postponement of the Games. An online petition calling for cancellation gained 300,000 signatures in three days.
Tennis stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka expressed hesitance about the Games, for different reasons.
“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, the world’s top female player who would compete for Japan, said Sunday at the Italian Open, “but I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year.”
Williams’s reluctance is related to Japan’s decision to close its borders to people from 152 nations, including the United States. Entry would be denied “unless special exceptional circumstances are found.” Williams hinted that if her 3-year-old daughter, Olympia, is not allowed into the country, she might skip the Games. The Grand Slam schedule is a factor as well.
Last week, the IOC announced that vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech would donate doses to inoculate athletes and officials ahead of the Games, with doses set to begin this month.
“Japan’s 1.6 percent rate of vaccination puts it on par with Myanmar, a failed state — not exactly a ringing endorsement of Tokyo’s shambolic rollout,” Jeff Kingston, head of Asia studies at Temple University’s local campus and a longtime resident of Tokyo, said in a recent Washington Post opinion piece. “This is an own goal of epic proportions.”