The last few weeks have seen a seesawing of headlines about the Tokyo Olympics, with rising COVID-19 infections in Japan and its variants spreading worldwide.
From a one-year postponement to barring international athletes from attending the Games, the path to the Tokyo Olympics has been far from smooth.
The epidemic situation in and around Tokyo continues to worsen, and the number of confirmed cases remains high. Under these circumstances, the opposition to canceling the Tokyo Olympics is far from showing signs of slowing down with calls mounting for a cancelation.
Meanwhile, Olympic officials have stood firm that the Games will be held following all safety protocols, with athletes from 206 countries set to compete in the global showpiece.
As International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials attempt to quell the public’s concerns, questions linger about how the Tokyo Olympics will operate safely. COVID-19 outbreaks among scores of Indian and foreign athletes, have led to mass withdrawals and cancelations in the past few months.
Athletes facing uncertainty over Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 fears
While some athletes try to judge whether the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead as planned, others are uncertain over what, exactly, a pandemic-era Games would look like. Well, the bigger question appears to be as to how to ensure the safety of the Olympic athletes and safeguard the integrity of the Olympics.
# Roger Federer
20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer became the latest athlete to admit that he had not yet decided whether he will participate at the Tokyo Olympics. He admitted to mixed emotions amid lingering uncertainty over the staging of the Olympics in a pandemic.
"I would love to play in the Olympics, win a medal for Switzerland. It would make me especially proud. But if it doesn’t happen because of the situation, I would be the first to understand. I think what the athletes need is a decision: is it going to happen or is it not going to happen?" the two-time Olympic medalist was quoted as saying.
“At the moment, we have the impression that it will happen. We know it’s a fluid situation. And you can also decide as an athlete if you want to go. If you feel there’s a lot of resistance, maybe it’s better not to go. I don’t know."
# Hideki Matsuyama
Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama recently expressed his desire to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics, adding that he understood Japan's calls for cancelation over COVID-19 concerns.
Despite the worries, Matsuyama is willing to plow through the current uncertainty with optimism. The six-time winner on the PGA Tour spent two weeks in quarantine after winning the Masters at Augusta National. He said the United States is at a fairly advanced stage in trying to vaccinate people against the virus rather than his home country.
"The virus is looked at a little bit differently in Japan than here in the United States. Just look around today. Lots of people are here watching golf without masks, wherein Japan they’re still very cautious. I can certainly understand those people who are voicing their opinion about (not having) the Olympics," Matsuyama said.
# Rafael Nadal
Two-time Olympic champion Rafael Nadal has joined a growing number of Olympic athletes in expressing doubts about the Tokyo Olympics.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion remained uncertain about competing in the Olympics, adding that he would require more time to decide according to the prevailing conditions.
"In a normal world, I will never see about missing Olympics, of course. Is no doubt about that. Everybody knows how important have been for me [to] always play Olympics. Under these circumstances, I don't know. Let's see what's going on in the next couple of months," Nadal told Associated Press.
"This year is something a little bit different, no? We need to be flexible. We need to adapt about the things that are happening."
# John Isner
Safety is the top concern for highest-ranked US male singles tennis player John Isner, who preferred to stay at home with his family over competing in the Olympics.
He reiterated his intent to not compete at the Tokyo Olympics in January, after he had announced his decision to skip the event last year.
“I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that," Isner said.
# Serena Williams
23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams added her voice to concerns about the Tokyo Olympics amid worsening COVID-19 situation in the host city.
“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. Then there is the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves," Serena explained.
“I would not be able to go function without my 3-year-old around. I think I would be in a depression. We’ve been together every day of her life.”
Her comments came after Japan's tennis star Naomi Osaka raised doubts about the viability of the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Fellow tennis player Kei Nishikori also said the risk of contracting the virus through the Tokyo Olympics must not be ruled out. She called for a discussion on the wisdom of hosting the event.