Friday , September 24 2021

Johan Esk: Spy on the street when Tokyo goes to the worst games

“The best games in history.”

This is what the Olympic presidents said during the closing ceremonies.

With that title, the Tokyo Games are nowhere near that. In contrast, the 2021 Games, still called Tokyo 2020, are the worst in Olympic history.

In this case, the team will win.

The International Olympic Committee, the Tokyo Olympic Organization and the Japanese government are debuting. Before the inauguration, I wrote that these substitute games should not start this year. After being here a little over a week, the feeling has only intensified.

It’s usually great to be at an Olympics. Now it’s the most interesting. I wouldn’t want to be without these weird weeks, but I wouldn’t want to do it again ever again. Because this is not a real Olympics. In a true Olympics, the games and the city flow together and form an unbeatable experience. Now they are different worlds.

I have never felt so welcome anywhere in the world.

I have never felt so hated with so much politeness.

Because despite all the smiles and bows, all sympathetic volunteers, so the feeling that constantly hangs like an Olympic backpack is that foreigners don’t have to be here.

All these rules about what Olympic travelers are not allowed to do, where we are not allowed, who we are not allowed to talk to and, above all, where we are not allowed to go, are restrictive in a way that destroys the feeling of being in an Olympics.

It is an interesting experience, and not at all positive, to be in a life and see how everything happens as always out there without being able to participate.

After 14 days, the bubble opens and you go out to the usual Tokyo, I’m not there yet, but I have close friends who can play Guns N ‘Roses on Saturday.

Despite a number of strict requirements for social distancing, it has sometimes been crammed into Tokyo media buses.

Despite a number of strict requirements for social distancing, she has sometimes been crammed into Tokyo media buses.

Photo: Joel Marklund / Bildbyrån

It’s the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in infamous media circles. The fact that many name the worst games is related to the chaos of transportation.

And of course, here it can be so hard to know how bus schedules change that table tennis players know when their matches start. Getting someone to book a taxi can be at the mystery-solution level.

In order not to upset the people of Tokyo more than necessary, many did not want the games here, so there are no special Olympic files in traffic.

It had been necessary the other day. An accident meant that a trip that would last just over an hour would take almost four. Then me and my colleagues from Lithuania had to watch the swimming races that we didn’t have time on my computer.

The top cover was about to go to a Chinese journalist on the bus.


He called the poor driver a couple of times. After the third roar, the Chinese got what they wanted.

We were a few hundred meters from the olympic zone and there, on the street, there was a reason why it is really about to become the worst games.

And spy photos.

They are here and there and looking for faults against the coveted rules of foreigners. It can be a lowered mouth guard. Then a photo is taken.

What happens to the image and who is behind it is unclear. The hottest thing is that the Japanese government has asked for espionage.

But the scandal is that the IOC knew about the phenomenon and did not react in advance. Instead, reporters were told we could be prepared to be posted on social media if we broke any rules.

That wouldn’t have surprised me if it had happened at the upcoming winter games in China. Had Stasi done it in Erich Honecker’s GDR, it would have been a normal everyday life. But these are the Summer Olympics for sports.

I think (almost) everyone who is there does everything to follow the rules to keep the level of infection low.

The illogical lines however, they are not easy to follow. People need to be crowded to get a ticket to a mixed interview area where there can be as much space as possible. We are encouraged to keep our distance from rooms as large as showrooms, but we are crammed with buses.

On Tuesday there were some of us who were going to Izu to see the mountain bike. I went to the transport desk at the main press center the day before to ask myself how the buses were going.

– There is only one bus and it is full. You can take a taxi, a volunteer said.

– You can put an extra bus, I tried.

– We only received money for a bus, said a transport manager I put on the phone.

This in games that will be the most expensive in history. The final bill is expected to exceed the equivalent of SEK 200 billion.

During mountain bike competitions in Izu, ten kilometers from Tokyo, spectators were allowed.

During mountain bike competitions in Izu, ten kilometers from Tokyo, spectators were allowed.

Photo: Greg Baker / AFP

When we got to Izu it seemed a familiar and long-awaited thing.

A queue with audience. The 10 miles of Tokyo were enough to allow an audience and after the competition I knew the difference in competing with and without an audience.

When Swiss winner Jolanda Neff had to describe the feeling of competing in front of an audience for the first time in almost two years, then all the emotions came at once. She started crying.

Another person who knows the difference is Dutchwoman Eva de Goede, one of the biggest stars in field hockey. Put a grass hockey club in the hands of Caroline Seger and you’ll know who Goede’s player is.

The day after the mountain bike I do what I like best with the special show called the Summer Olympics. Go to a sport that I otherwise do not follow to see the beauty and excitement of the sport, live the atmosphere together with the public.

This is not possible here. Part of the spontaneity disappears when you have to book what to do the day before and the only vestige of the audience is that there are signs, which show where the spectators would go.

On the way to the field hockey rink, I see the banners of Tokyo 2020. “United by emotion.” Emotions between players and spectators do not come together here. None of the 4.5 million tickets sold to the Japanese alone are used.

Every shout between the players, every ball hit on the field. Everything is heard in the stands. It’s a useless sports sound, it’s not how an Olympic game should sound.

Dutchwoman Eva de Goede tries to get the ball out of Irishwoman Lizzy Holden in a pre-Olympics match.

Dutchwoman Eva de Goede tries to get the ball out of Irishwoman Lizzy Holden in a pre-Olympics match.

Photo: Luis Acosta / AFP

The Dutch women’s team has played four consecutive Olympic finals, won in 2008 and 2012. Five years ago, there was a final defeat against Great Britain after a penalty shootout.

Eva de Goede makes her fourth consecutive Olympics. After a 5-0 win over South Africa in the team’s third win in three games, the 32-year-old says:

– It’s so sad that there are no spectators here. It really makes a big difference. These are very special Olympics and I tell the younger ones that they are doing their first Olympics that while there are a lot of restrictions, we have to make sure we can be here and play.

– And after all, it’s still an Olympics.

Empty bleachers on the field hockey rink.

Empty bleachers on the field hockey rink.

Photo: Ina Fassbender / AFP

Finally: The reason it may be the worst Olympics of all time is this virus that can shatter Olympic dreams even for athletes who have not noticed any disease.

Sam Kendricks, friend and great competitor of Armand “Mondo” Duplanti, jumped pearls, has left a positive covid test and misses the Olympics. The news came on Thursday.

Duplantis and Kendricks were supposed to meet the day before for coffee at the Olympic Village, but Mondo received a call from his girlfriend. Coffee time was not over.

This is how the “Mondo” Olympics were saved.

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