"At the end of the day I'm just an athlete and there's a whole pandemic going on," said Naomi Osaka, revealing her reservations about holding the Summer Olympics despite her own excitement

By Vanessa Etienne
May 10, 2021 01:07 PM
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Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
| Credit: Courtesy Play Academy

Naomi Osaka is unsure whether the upcoming Tokyo Olympics should still be held amid the COVID-19 pandemic — even though she's meant to compete at the Games.

During the Italian Open on Sunday, the 23-year-old tennis star revealed to reporters that she's concerned about the safety of others, despite being excited to participate in the Olympics should they happen, according to the Associated Press.

"At the end of the day I'm just an athlete and there's a whole pandemic going on," she said. "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."

"But I think that there's so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year," Osaka, currently the second-ranked women's tennis player in the world, continued. "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."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
| Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty

The Tokyo Olympics were already postponed after coronavirus spread across the globe in 2020. The Games are now scheduled to kick off July 23. However, overseas spectators won't be allowed to attend in order to ensure safety and minimize unnecessary international travel, in addition to other health precautions.

"I feel like whatever makes everyone more comfortable and more safe. There's going to be a lot of people entering the country, so they definitely have to make the right decisions on that," Osaka added to reporters, the AP said.

Osaka was born in Japan and has dual U.S. and Japanese citizenship. Approaching her first Olympics, she said it would be an honor to go as planned, but she's still concerned. "If you're going into the Olympics and whatever, make the host country happy," the tennis superstar told reporters.

On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Pfizer-BioNTech will donate vaccines to athletes participating in the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in order to make the event safer and show solidarity with Japan.

Despite the uncertainty with the Summer Games, Osaka is still prepared to compete. She recently told PEOPLE, "My plan is to arrive in Tokyo as early as I can and acclimatize to the conditions and the courts. I've played there many times and always feel at home, so I am really excited."

"I've never competed in an Olympics, so just that in itself will be a huge thrill and honor. But being in my home country gives me that added excitement. I love being in Tokyo so it will be super interesting to feel the vibe within the city, depending on the COVID restrictions," she added.