TOKYO • Tennis star Naomi Osaka, the poster girl of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, took to social media on Saturday to show her support for the decision to postpone the Games until next year owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title after lifting the US Open in 2018 and the Australian Open last year, Osaka was the central character in the video to launch the official motto for the Games that had been set for this summer.
But in the month since, Covid-19 has spread across the world, leading to last week's decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), following a request by the Japanese government, to delay the world's foremost sporting event for the first time.
Infections in Japan have climbed to more than 1,650, with 52 deaths as of yesterday.
While Osaka admitted that she was heartbroken at not making her Games bow in front of her home fans this year, she tweeted it was the right decision and believes her country will emerge stronger from the crisis.
"Everyone knows how much the Olympics mean to me and how proud I will be to participate in my home country," the world No. 10 wrote.
"Of course, I'm disappointed that it won't happen this year but we'll all be ready to be stronger in 2021. I support (Japanese) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's brave decision and the IOC 100 per cent.
"Sport will eventually unite us again and be there for us always, but that time is not now.
"This is the time for people from all countries, backgrounds and races to rally together to save as many lives as we can. To me, that is the Olympic spirit.
"To the people of Japan; stay strong, hang in there, and let's show the world our beautiful country when time is right in 2021."
Osaka, the first Asian to become world No. 1, concluded with a message for her 500,000 plus Twitter followers: "Stay safe everyone, take care of each other, be kind and we will make it through. Love, Naomi."
The 22-year-old, who was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother before being raised in the United States, was chosen to lead Tokyo 2020's "United by Emotion" motto as the face of a changing country.
Japan, traditionally seen as a racially homogeneous country, is becoming more ethnically diverse and she has been at the forefront of a new wave of sporting heroes set to represent the host nation at the Olympics.