Tokyo – With angry red eyes that never blink and teeth made for snoring, Godzilla stands sentry outside the window of my hotel room, where I’m being interned by Olympic bureaucrats who decided that sprinters It was a hilarious idea to invite swimmers. Skateboarders in Japan from around the world amid a COVD-19 pandemic that has killed more than four million people.
If they award medals for greed, arrogance and absurdity, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach will win gold, silver and bronze. Bach insisted “cancellation was never an option” for the Games of the XXXIInd Olympiad, despite the looming threat of the delta version and heavy opposition to the event from good people in Japan.
All we can do is ponder whether these games should have run into a hot minute after a year-long delay. But first, will it be okay if I make a confession in person? After three days and three nights under COVID quarantine imposed by Olympic officials, with any competitor more concerned about securing funding from broadcast rights than health risks, I harbor tender feelings for that giant lizard. who is watching me 24/7.
I’d call it the Stockholm syndrome, except Godzilla and I are stuck together in Tokyo, where the bed frames in the athletes’ village are made from cardboard to discourage the hunky-punky, but Bach and the IOC brass have told local organizers A bill is affixed to the extent that more than $20 billion will be spent to organize the event in about 20 vacant places where spectators will not be allowed.
It’s weird to even make absurdity. But the COVID fears in Japan are in every way real and over-sized, as I have every morning, afternoon and night since checking into a room on the 13th floor at the Shinjuku Prince Hotel with a 40-foot-tall statue of Godzilla’s head have seen. At 4:03 a.m. on Monday, after more than 12 hours of detention at Narita Airport, accompanied by a group of goofballs who would fit right in with Obi-Wan Kenobi at Mos Eisley Cantina.
This is my 12th trip to the Olympics. I admit to being a sucker for the whole crazy spectacle. But my arrival at Tokyo airport had never felt like a circus. No one in charge cared, or even checked, to find out if I had a Johnson & Johnson vaccination topped by a Pfizer booster. It didn’t matter that I did a clean test for COVID twice in the last four days.
Me and two Canadian journalists were asked to sit in the corner on folding chairs in red tape from the time our flight landed at 2:30 until midnight. We lacked the official, rubber-stamp approval of a solemn oath required by the Japanese government that ink-stained lows like me would refuse the temptation to wander through natatoriums and skateboard parks to sing karaoke with the locals. It’s far from me to burst the Olympic bubble of Tokyo officials, but they’ll have an easier time putting the genie back in the bottles than stopping sports journalists from taking out a few bottles of beer after work.
As the clock went from Sunday night to Monday morning and I asked if there was a place where we could sleep or at least drink water, a bureaucrat working for the Summer Games offered a deal. Which of late, could have made a great Monty Hall blush. Option A: Sign a document that can compel us to quarantine in our hotel rooms for 14 days. Option B: Hand over $800 (Canadian) dollars and crouch in our chairs until they get us a flight to North America.
Yes it felt like a cheap hustle. But I laughed out loud at the absurdity of all this. My choice in the matter proved easy, especially when another representative of the Tokyo organizing committee approached and made a suggestion: “If I were you, I would sign the papers and then ignore the quarantine order.”
Such words of advice resonated, because if bending the rules doesn’t define the Olympic spirit, what does?
The abundance of caution regarding COVID-19 in Tokyo, where a state of medical emergency has been declared until the end of the Games, is understandable, even if it seems a bit strange to a visitor to Colorado looking directly at Shohey. Japan had arrived. Ohtani pitched and hit the All-Star Game with his nearly 49,000 new best friends packed into the stands of Coors Field.
In the United States, which has a population of 328 million. There have been nearly 625,000 COVID-related deaths, 40 times the number of deaths from the pandemic compared to Japan with a population of 126 million. On any given day this summer, for Colorado, with a population of just under 6 million, it has not been unusual to see more people die of COVID than the entire country of Japan.
In America, it’s probably a silly notion that we’ve defeated the pandemic. But is it worse than the COVID paranoia in Japan, where there is a sign of panic in the street?
So here we are, me and Godzilla, at a sporting event Japan doesn’t really want, but should move on.
No one said games have to be fun. But with all the money at stake, the monster must be fed.