July 24, 2021
Covid scandals, beach volleyball played to crickets and Japan’s gymnastics king bowed out in silence as the Games began
Surreal spectacle of a superbly set up Olympics with no one here to enjoy it | Andy Bull
And it all started so smoothly, too. A frictionless dawn trip through the Olympic labyrinth, navigating all those buses and badges and scans and forms and apps and depots and checkpoints, two temperature checks, a ticketing desk, a list cross-referenced with an email verification, a bag scan and a pat down. The huge and intricate machinery of the Tokyo Games had come to life, tens of thousands of journalists and athletes and officials whizzing hither and thither from hotel to transport hub to, in my case, Tokyo Bay and Shizuma Park. This was the venue of Japan’s match against the Czech Republic in the women’s beach volleyball, the opening game on the opening morning of the Olympics.
There’s always a nervous uncertainty on the first morning. This time, inevitably, there was a little extra anxiety, the mutual paranoia of people pressed up together in close proximity again. This was soon cut through by all the enthusiastic smiles and shouts of “Ohayo!” and “Welcome!” from friendly volunteers with no one else to talk to. Then I met an Australian: “Have you not heard the news mate? The match has been cancelled. One of the Czech players tested positive.” I did wonder why I’d had the 7am bus to the venue all to myself.
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