STARNBERG, July 19, 2021 (by Brian Coney)
Earlier this year, four-time Internazionali BNL D’Italia champion Serena Williams announced that she was considering skipping the Summer Olympics in Tokyo if she would not be allowed to bring her 3-year-old daughter with her due to COVID-19 restrictions. Late last month, she confirmed that she was not on the Olympic list, and that she “shouldn’t be on it,” saying she had many reasons – none of which she went into.
Williams is part of a growing list of tennis superstars who have decided not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics, which are opening on 23 July after being postponed last year due to the pandemic. Many of them are citing ongoing restrictions as the reason behind their decision to pull out of the competition.
Denis Shapovalov of Canada explains as much to the Wall Street Journal: “Obviously I want to play the Olympics, I want to represent my country. It’s a dream for me,” said the World No. 10. “But it’s really tough with these restrictions. It puts a lot of pressure on you.”
Japan has been extremely wary about opening its borders for the Olympics. Reports by the CBC about the restrictions in Tokyo show that both domestic and international spectators have been told that they cannot attend any of the events, and that many of the Olympic volunteers have also been informed that their services will no longer be needed. What’s more, access around the cauldron, fan zones, and fan activity centers is also being restricted,
Generally, Japan is a very safe country to travel to. ExpatBets coverage of Japan highlights how the country has a very low crime rate, and that Tokyo was ranked the safest city in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) 2019 Safe Cities Index. However, it is also among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, with over 830,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and nearly 15,000 associated deaths.
In early July, Tokyo reported its highest COVID-19 numbers in six months, with 1,308 new cases being reported. Only approximately 30 percent of the country’s population has received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Now in its fourth state of emergency since the first outbreaks in 2020, Japan has had no choice but to further tighten restrictions.
Nick Kyrgios, World No. 58, explained that these restrictions have been demotivating. On July 9, he tweeted the following: “…It’s been my dream to represent Australia at the Olympics and I know I may never get that opportunity again. But I also know myself. The thought of playing in front of empty stadiums just doesn’t sit right with me. It never has.”
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) July 8, 2021
He also cited health issues – another reason many other athletes have used to explain their decision to skip the Olympic Games. Roger Federer and Johanna Konta recently both pulled out of the games: Konta is reportedly still suffering from the after-effects of COVID-19 after a member of the British team tested positive, while Federer has said that issues with his knee from Wimbledon are preventing him from playing. Several other athletes, including Rafael Nadal, Bianca Andreescu, and Sofia Kenin have explained that they are pulling out to better prepare for other competitions like the US Open, which begins in August.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) July 13, 2021
Hi all, I have decided not to participate at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss it with my team I understand that it is the right decision
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) June 17, 2021
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