Ever seen The Truman Show? On the second day of waking up in the Olympic village in Tokyo it dawned on me. Through the fog of jetlag and a near 30-hour journey across seven time zones I felt a bit like Truman Burbank, writes GARY LEMKE.
I’m sure even more so on day three.
“Good morning. Hello. Arigato.” Leave the residency block, turn right to take the same route to the village dining hall. Past the Covid-19 stalls where you hand in your saliva test every day that you will be here.
Cross the road and stop off at the Olympic village dining hall, all two floors of it. Santising twice and put on disposable hand gloves before picking up a tray and helping yourself to whatever dish tickles your tastebuds. A 24-hour walk-in, sit-down in your own “booth” santised dining experience.
It’s Groundhog Day for now, until the competition starts.
Perhaps you will want to go to the shopping “mall”, a cluster of freshly erected wooden shops housing a general convenience store – which quickly ran out of shampoo and toothpaste – bank, official Tokyo 2020 merchandise shop, hair salon, bank and a few other things.
You can’t escape the “bubble”, even though you can see what lies outside. The impressive tall buildings of the city of Tokyo surround you. Occasionally you can hear the siren of a police car. Or is it a fire engine, or an ambulance? Two days is probably too soon to tell for the first-time visitor to Tokyo.
There’s a helicopter in the sky that flies over the Olympic village several times a day. You notice it at first, then it blends in with the surrounds.
Truman Burbank was none the wiser. Every day for three decades his every move was captured by all-seeing cameras, him being the star of a reality television series where every person he had contact with was a member of the cast.
Those same “hellos” and “thank yous” were Truman’s life.
But Tokyo is reality and the 2020 Olympics are going ahead. Just not as any Games have done so before and probably won’t ever again.
The “bubble” has become one of the most used sporting expressions of this past year, but surely it has never been enforced to the extent that it will be for the Tokyo Olympics.
From the moment one landed at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, about an hour from the Athletes’ Village, it was as if one was whisked off into a parallel universe. Stepping off the plane to a world where old reality meets new reality.
We were immediately separated from “civilian passengers” and started on a process where there was a Covid test and a seemingly relentless series of procedures away from “normality”. Taken from one room to another, led by officials wearing blue medical gowns and masks. The latter probably needs not be mentioned; in fact not wearing a mask is only permitted for when training, competing, eating and sleeping.
Driven in buses to the secured village in the waterfront Harumi district of Tokyo, we entered the bubble. And that’s where we will stay until we leave Tokyo. It’s this way or no way at all.
Once competition starts we will travel on designated buses to and from the venues. There are no diversions, no interaction with the public, or any “sight-seeing” or shopping. This is Olympic business as unusual as it gets.
The last major sports event that Japan hosted was the 2019 Rugby World Cup. In less than two short years though the world has changed. The stadiums were packed to capacity. Teams engaged with the public and had autograph sessions. School children learned the national anthems of countries and sang it to the players.
That was then, this is now. As we all know the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody.
Is this the real life
Is this just fantasy
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality