Well, its day 2 in Tokyo.
The Opening Ceremony is still three days away, although it will be a TV event here just the same as in Australia.
Back in February 2020, I received my initial invitation to judge at the Tokyo Olympics, that was pretty exciting! In the meantime, of course, the pandemic intervened, and the decision was eventually made to defer the Games to 2021.
Fast forward to March 2021, and the International Gymnastics Federation confirmed that the invitation to judge carried over to the re-scheduled event. It just required my acceptance. Decisions…
There is still a pandemic. It has gripped Japan in no uncertain way. It is clear that not all the people of Japan agree with holding the event. Most of them do not! The logistics of hosting such an event is nothing less than enormous but to do so safely within this current environment is exponentially greater. From Australia, such an undertaking involves two weeks of hotel quarantine on return. It was made clear that, although the Australian Olympic Committee would support all team members through these requirements, International Technical Officials (includes gymnastics judges) represented their respective International Federations and were not part of the Australian Olympic Team. Few countries outside of Australia and New Zealand are even aware of such an approach to this pandemic.
However, its the Olympic Games. It is one that is unlike any other has been or ever will be. It will be stripped bare of what makes an Olympic Games such a memorable event. Of course, I decided to go ahead with it.
Although I started the vaccination process in time to allow it to be completed prior to departure, the reality of the event began only a couple of weeks ago when my PVA (Pre Validated Accreditation) arrived. This serves as your Visa to the host country and is validated, laminated and hung around your neck for the next two weeks on arrival in Japan. After the arrival of the PVA, a flood of requirements issued from the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) to prepare for the requisites of the Japanese Government. For the purposes of COVID-19 and a safe Olympics, these are huge, untried and seem to change almost daily. Eventually the correct COVID-19 tests have been made and I have successfully navigated all of the travel requirements and made the flight to Tokyo.
The enormity of the Japanese task hits when you arrive. The COVID-19 based process is massive. There have been reports of huge time frames to accomplish this. Athletes were reported to have taken 9 hours to get through this. I was expecting anything between 4 and 6 hours as reasonable. In the end it took two and a half hours. It was terrifically efficient but also seemed to vary according to the number of Olympic related arrivals at the airport at any one time. A Canadian judge who had arrived the day before me had taken twelve hours to go from arrival to hotel.
This morning the Men’s judges were conveyed to the uniform dispatch centre. Again, an example of impressive Japanese efficiency. There were 60 of us. There are several items of both a formal and a casual uniform that had to be tried for fit, issued and checked out and this took just over an hour. In the afternoon we had what should have been a judges’ briefing at the venue and a draw to see where we will judge in the opening qualification round. Instead, we did it via something like a zoom session from our respective hotel rooms (where we will end up spending most of our time). This meeting had its own challenges. I will be judging Floor in the opening Qualification round.
Tomorrow will be the Men’s Podium Training. It’s really like a dress rehearsal of Day 1 of the competition. This will go from 10 in the morning till 10 in the evening covering three sub-divisions of competition. The Podium Training for the women will take place the day after with the Opening Ceremony the day after that. The Men’s competition begins for real the day after that!