Like James Bond, our Stuart Weir has performed many roles. Since 2012, Stuart has been the Togo Olympic attache. This position has provided us at @runblogrun with some unique stories. In light of the current pandemic, Stuart Weir suggested a two part series on the current Covid crisis in Japan, and how the Olympics will most definitely be affected by the pandemic.
This is a thought provoking article.
The Olympic Games are the highlight of any athlete’s career. The biggest event in the world. That it only happens every four years means that most athletes will only have one or two shots at an Olympics when they are absolutely in their prime. It is something to be celebrated with family and friends. It is a festival alongside a sports event.
I remember meeting athletes competing in Beijing who like me were taking the opportunity of a day out to the great wall of China. In 2012 it often seemed that there were more athletes milling around in the Westfield shopping mall, than there were in the Olympic Village! In Rio many athletes took the opportunity to visit the iconic Copacabana Beach or the Christ the Redeemer statute. I remember meeting Christian Taylor’s parents and Jodie Williams’ family, there to support their Olympian. I remember a group of Australian swimmers, demob happy with competition finished – trying to persuade a London underground train driver to let them drive the train! With 3,000 day-passes per day, some athletes are able to take their family into the Olympic Village and give them the grand tour.
Serving the Togo Olympic attachÃ© at the London and Rio Olympics, I was village based. Walking into the Olympic dining room which seats about 2,000 is a jaw dropping experience. You sit at a table and are joined by two American swimmers, a Russian tennis player and two Kenyan runners. You realize that you are part of an amazing Olympic family. That you’re wearing the Olympic accreditation makes you a safe person to talk to. Eating breakfast with Manchester United star, Ryan Giggs, was a surreal 2012 moment. He even got me a coffee!
There was a tennis court in the village in Rio. I spotted to people having a hit. They looked quite good. On closer inspection, I realized it was Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker!
All countries produce an Olympic pin badge. Many athletes collect and swap pins. It is an easy way to start a conversation with an Olympian from any country. Do you have a pin? Would you like to swap it for one for my country? I collected over 100 – for a friend, of course.
The Olympics start and end with a spectacular pageant – the opening and closing ceremonies. While many athletes miss the opening ceremony because they arrive too late or are competing the next day, for a team like Togo (we had six athletes in London and five in Rio), none of them will come close to a medal, taking part in the opening ceremony will be a life’s highlight.
Not this year.
The plan for 2021 is that athletes will arrive not more than 4 days before they compete and leave 2 days afterwards. They are not allowed to leave the Olympic Village except for training and competition. They are not allowed to use public transport. No sightseeing, no shopping trips. No visitors. Even if family members are allowed into Japan – which is not certain – they are not allowed into the village and athletes are not allowed out.
Athletes will be encouraged to eat meals in their bubbles – meeting athletes from other countries, strongly discouraged. I presume that the opening and closing ceremonies will be masked and social-distanced.
We know that there will be no foreign spectators allowed at the Olympics or Paralympics. Whether local spectators will be allowed, is still to be confirmed.
For a journalist trying to cover a range of sports in different locations in a large city – Tokyo is a city of 37milion people – getting around is a challenge. Subway trains are often preferable to buses weaving their way through the heavy traffic. 2021 journalists are banned from using public transport, from going to bars or restaurants except for eateries within the Olympic bubble. They are required to file a plan for their first two weeks before arrival.
Assuming that the Games go ahead, it will be the Olympics but not as we know them, Jim.