An Olympics behind closed doors


Along the Tokyo Bay seafront and stretching across the boardwalk there is an unending white wall blocking a view of the Olympic Rings.

A local resident says the government has put up walls and barricades and fences around anything related to Tokyo 2020 to keep the people of Japan away from gathering at locations throughout the city. 

Tokyo is, after all, in a state of emergency. 

For months organizers, athletes, media and government officials have said these Olympics are going to be different. But nobody could have prepared me for this. 

It’s been a little less than 24 hours on the ground in Tokyo and it’s abundantly clear a large majority of people in Japan don’t want the Olympics. That shouldn’t be a surprise as poll after poll throughout the past year showed an overwhelming number of people here didn’t want the Games. 

The new venues are behind fences. The iconic shot of the Olympic Rings are behind a wall. A resident of Tokyo told CBC Sports that highway tolls in the Greater Tokyo Area during the Games have doubled in an attempt to keep people off the roads. 

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More from Tokyo 2020

‘Just get them over with’

One resident today bluntly said, “just get them over with.” That sums up the mood in a country that eight years ago rejoiced at winning the 2020 Olympic bid. 

On Monday, one of the IOC’s top sponsors, Toyoto, said it would not run Olympics-related TV commercials in Japan. And their top executives will not be attending the opening ceremony. 

Nobody could have predicted this unprecedented situation. An Olympics in a pandemic. There has been a herculean effort by organizers to pull this off despite relentless warnings from health officials to think otherwise.

I watched for hours at the airport as staff and volunteers ran around exhaustedly trying to keep up with wave after wave of people showing up for the Olympics.

Some of the Chinese athletes were wearing hazmat suits as they arrived.

Upwards of 80,000 athletes, officials, support staff, media and IOC dignitaries are coming to Tokyo.

WATCH | COVID-19 fears rise as Tokyo Olympics nearing:

COVID-19 fears are rising as athletes and staff from around the world pour into Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Five days before the opening ceremony, cases are rising in Japan and protests are getting louder. 3:13

Movement limited

Olympics are restricted at the best of times. Movement is limited to hotels, venues, mixed zones, and short interviews with the athletes. Throw in a pandemic and it’s hit a completely different level.

Here’s what I had to do just to get on the flight:

Two negative PCR COVID-19  tests prior to departure. A detailed 14-day activity plan highlighting to the most intricate detail my movements (which is limited to hotel, transportation and venue) every day and hour for the first two weeks. That plan had to be approved by the Tokyo organizing committee. I had to download a tracking app and input all of my personal data and locations in Tokyo. 

It took nearly 10 hours to get through all of the different check stops at the airport. At one location officials would check our PCR tests. Then we’d move down the hallway to another check stop. They’d look over the same papers. 

Then we reached a saliva test checkpoint, spit in a tube and wait for more than two hours to get the results. And no one was moving until every person who was on the flight was cleared with a negative test. 

‘Finally, a large, packed bus took us from the airport to a downtown taxi hub. We all then took individual taxis to the hotel. 

Twenty-nine hours of travel later it was time to sleep. 

For the next 14 days I’ll be restricted from leaving the hotel and walking in the streets of Tokyo. My movements are being tracked on the app. I’ll go from the hotel, to the media shuttle, to the venue. Rinse and repeat. 

After the two weeks there is a little bit more freedom. 

The 7-Eleven at the hotel has great egg salad sandwiches and mayonnaise flavoured potato chips. That might become my nightly dinner. 

There are no fans at venues, no celebration in the communities or the streets of Tokyo. 

Just 16 days of white-knuckling through events hoping the athletes, who have worked a lifetime for this moment, don’t test positive and somehow find their way to a podium, wearing a mask and awarding themselves their own medal.

Let the Games begin, as the saying goes. 

But this time, in this country, many can’t wait for them to end.

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