Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo Tour Diaries: Sport24 lands in Japan for Covid-hit Games ... eventually

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A sign with Covid-19 countermeasures ahead of Tokyo 2020
A sign with Covid-19 countermeasures ahead of Tokyo 2020
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

It's been a life-long dream to attend the Olympic Games and when I was given the opportunity, I never hesitated.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has made planning for this year's Games laborious.

Before arriving in Japan, all media and participants had to undergo two Covid-19 PCR tests (96 hours and 72 hours before departure). We also had to fill in an 'Activity Plan' predicting which events we would be attending in and around Tokyo.

The Activity Plan was done a month before the Games, which restricts media to only attending the venues they've applied for.

Three flights and nearly two full days of travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Doha and then to Narita International Airport in Tokyo later, I arrived at the world's biggest sporting spectacle. 

There was further paperwork on the Tokyo-bound flight and on arrival - at 18:55 - I had lost count of the documents and envelopes. 

There were complications with some of my paperwork, which meant it took longer for me to get out of the airport, but the volunteers and staff at the airport were helpful, guiding me through all eight Covid-19 protocol stops.

There was a language barrier, but things went somewhat smoothly.

There was a saliva antigen test, which is as disgusting as it sounds, and a wait for the results before finally going through customs and passport control - finally leaving the airport at 23:30.

Even at that time of day, volunteers were waiting and guiding each participant to every check point.

I had a brief conversation with a female volunteer. Despite working at midnight, she told me that she was grateful to be meeting new people.

All media and broadcasters took a bus to the MPC (Main Press Center) in Koto City and then took taxis to their hotels.

I finally checked in at 01:00. It took nearly five hours to get out of the airport, and at one point I passed the time with a lovely 10-minute conversation on the TV show Friends with a member of staff.

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Organisers require those arriving to quarantine for three days.

At the airport, everyone - even athletes - had to download a contact-tracing app, which allows the government to track us via GPS. For our first 14 days upon entering Japan, we're not allowed to be tourists: no walking around or no eating at restaurants.

So despite now being in Tokyo, I am yet to visit any sites or even take iconic photos of Olympic rings or banners around the city.

There are countless logins and websites that require registrations and sign-ins. There are the Covid-19 tests, which will be taken every four days for media, regardless of whether you are vaccinated or not.

There are stringent rules put in place for all involved, including the over 15 000 athletes at the Olympic Village.

The athletes get tested every day and are not allowed to cheer on their team-mates in other events. They also have 48 hours to leave Tokyo once their event is finished, or when they're eliminated.

Tokyo is running a tight ship but regardless of the success of the showpiece, it'll forever be known as the Covid Games.

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympics for Sport24.

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