Tennis legend Roger Federer said on Saturday that athletes around the world were waiting for the Tokyo Olympic Games organisers to decide whether the sporting extravaganza "will go ahead or not" due to the evolving global Covid-19 situation.
The Olympics are scheduled to be held between July 23 and August 8. “The athletes need a decision: is it happening or isn't it?” asked Federer, who is the joint record holder with Spaniard Rafael Nadal for winning most number of Grand Slam singles titles at 20 apiece.
"It's [the Olympics] difficult. Honestly I don't know what to think. I would love to play in the Olympics, win a medal for Switzerland…that would make me so proud. But if that doesn't happen due to the situation, I would be the first to understand," Federer told Switzerland's Leman Bleu television.
Federer said nothing was clear as of now. "We're not hearing much. That makes me think the Games will happen, even if I've heard that lots of people in Tokyo are against the Games. But I think what the athletes need is a decision: is it happening or isn't it?" he said.
"At the moment, we have the impression that it will. We know it's a fluid situation. And also 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."
Federer was voicing the concerns of Nadal and 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, who have said that they had not yet made up their minds on competing at the Olympics, given the dynamic situation arising due to the raging pandemic.
Two top Japanese tennis players -- Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori -- have also voiced concerns, saying that the risks of holding the Olympics at a time when the pandemic is raging should be carefully discussed.
The second-ranked tennis player, who represents Japan, was asked about the games at the Italian Open recently. “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 said.
The Tokyo Olympics were already postponed from last year and opposition seems to rising in Japan about conducting the games this year. The infection and its spreading variants are demanding Japan's healthcare system with only 2 per cent of the population vaccinated. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) recently declared that vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech would donate vaccines to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for Tokyo. The IOC has recurrently said the Olympics were being organised as if the vaccines were not available but has pushed hard to get athletes vaccinated.
(With agency inputs)