Keep the expectations low. That is how Stuart Weir has managed his own expectations. The following piece is how Stuart Weir managed to fly from London to Tokyo, and spend 3.25 days, quarantined in his hotel.
Stuart Weir has tickets for 4 straight evening sessions, as we thought tickets for media, something we really had not dealt with before, would preclude some journalists from seeing their key events.
An Olympics like no other
Stuart Weir is in Tokyo attending his fourth Olympics. In this article, he gives an insight into the unique challenges of working at an Olympics in the midst of the pandemic.
Getting to Tokyo feels like an achievement in its own right. The process involved overcoming so many hurdles, unheard of for any previous games. The decision not to allow any foreign spectators at the games effectively meant that only people with an accredited status are allowed into the country at the moment.
I am accredited as a written press. Meeting the entry requirements of the country and the conditions of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee was effectively a full-time job the week before I traveled. I must have received easily 200 pages of detailed instructions. Every organization had to nominate a CLO (Covid Liaison Officer) who was responsible for ensuring that all members of their delegation are fully briefed and keep the rules. If I had a dollar for every time I read that my CLO would undertake a particular task for me or that if I had any questions I should address them to my CLO, it would have paid for my flight! The problem is that as a one-person delegation, our omniscient CLO is myself.
It seems to be a Japanese characteristic that nothing is simple. I received a form to complete. It was a two-pager, which came with 10 pages of instructions on how to complete it, supported by a 5-minute video of further instructions!
The first task was to prepare an activity plan listing every destination that I wanted to go to during my stay in Tokyo. The plan had to be submitted to Tokyo 2020 and be approved by the government. It was made clear that there would be no possibility of changing the plan to add additional destinations once approved. We were required to download and activate two Japanese health Apps. (Having a smartphone was described as essential to entry to the country). Downloading the apps was easy, BUT the main one could only be activated after your activity plan had been approved. I had not received confirmation of my plan’s approval at the point when I boarded my flight. I had had to have two PCR tests, 72 and 96 hours before flying, carried out by a laboratory authorized to produce certificates in a format acceptable to Japanese immigration.
Several of these documents had to be presented at check-in. The flight itself was a delight, 40 people on a 300 seater!
On arrival at Tokyo Airport, we were processed on what felt like a conveyor belt, going from station to station with each one wanting to verify a different aspect of my documentation. At least 10 of the stations must have asked for my passport to check personal details against whatever form they were processing. In the midst of the process, we had two spit some saliva into a test tube and await the result. (In Japan they test swat saliva, not nose/throat swabs).
Some of the officials were from Tokyo 2020, others were immigration officers in addition to the normal passport control procedures. One hour and 50 minutes after we landed, I completed the final task with a stamp in my passport and an accreditation lanyard around my neck and was officially allowed into Japan.
We were only permitted to travel from the airport on official Olympic transport and not allowed to do anything in the airport. The waiting area was just outside a telephone and sim card store. I was keen to get a local sim card and started walking the 15 yards to the store. Before I got halfway, one of the Olympics staff came running to stop me and informed me firmly that I was not allowed to move from my seat.
On arrival at my hotel – everyone must stay in official accommodation at these games – I am required to quarantine for the rest of my arrival day plus the next 72 hours. Other than one short visit per day to the local convenience store, and I am not allowed to leave the hotel.
When I’m released from quarantine I am only allowed to go to the places specified on my activity plan. I am allowed to travel only on Olympic transport or by a specific taxi booking service. I am not allowed to travel on public transport (trains, buses, metro, or “normal” taxis). I may eat only in the official Olympic Restaurants or in my own hotel (which does not have a restaurant!) – visits to public restaurants or bars plus any shopping or sightseeing are banned.
Normally at Olympics, Media accreditation gets you access to any sport except high-demand low-capacity events like swimming finals. In 2021 all sports, including all sessions of athletics are ticketed with no certainty at this point how many athletics sessions I will be able to attend.
It’s a great effort on the part of Tokyo 2020 to make the games happen, despite overwhelming public opinion being against the games. I am delighted and feel privileged to be here. However, I have had to keep my expectations low.