Having been the first ever Japanese woman to win a gold medal at the 1984 World Judo Championship, Yamaguchi is no stranger to the power sport and competition has in society. Still, with many regions in Japan placed under a state of emergency due to the pandemic, she argued the government has lost the trust of its people.
What is the meaning of the games?
Yamaguchi, who also won bronze at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, published her letter in the Japanese media outlet, Kyodo News.
She criticized the press conference held by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on May 28 for leaving its audience with unsatisfactory answers in regard to the games that will commence in less than two months.
Yamaguchi labeled the government’s unwillingness to hold open dialogue with its public a 'hard-line, stubborn' approach.
With less than 3% of the total population vaccinated in Japan, the executive organizer said she wished the process had started two months earlier.
Japan's Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa has continually denied that athletes need to be vaccinated to compete.
The country has suffered over 13,000 deaths since the pandemic’s start. Recently, the daily number of new COVID-19 cases have dropped since a recent high of 7,766 on May 8. On June 3, the government reported 3,078 new cases.
The International Olympic Committee was not spared from the criticism of Yamaguchi. She said public opinion does not matter to the IOC, referencing how people were shocked when John Coates, its Vice President, said the games will be held despite the state of emergency.
Yamaguchi asked who the games are being held for, arguing that they have lost their meaning.
We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not.