Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Good afternoon, YouthMundees! Welcome back to this very special Olympics Edition of the Artist Spotlight. We missed you, YouthMundees!
The Olympics are a spectacle like no other, one of very few events where people of all ages come together and marvel at the athletes from around the world. With the mounting pressures of the global health crisis, it was unclear whether the Games would actually happen. But commence they did, beginning with international tennis phenomenon Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic Torch in Tokyo. I had the privilege of being one of very few people to attend the Games, working as a member of the media broadcast team.
As part of the Japanese government’s efforts to minimize infections, all 42,000 Olympic-accredited foreigners were required to carry out a rigorous two-week self-quarantine. After 3 hours at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, where I spat into a little tube to test for COVID-19, signed countless forms acknowledging my understanding of Japan’s COVID-19 policies, and installed 3 government tracking apps on my smartphone, I spent two weeks tucked away in a narrow (think Ikea-bathroom-hallway-size) apartment in Tokyo. My livelihood depended on the impressively diverse and fresh meals I discovered at my designated konbini, or convenience stores. You might have seen tweets from NBC or BBC reporters lauding these not-your-mother’s 7/11s and Family Marts, which carry everything from seaweed-flavored potato chips and fresh pasta with fish roe to machines that allow you to access your international bank account. The Japanese konbinis have quite a cult following, with fans creating accounts dedicated to their favorite establishments. You can also check out “Conbini Boys,” a podcast started by two Boston-based creators devoted to debating (among other topics) which convenience store offers the superior fried chicken.
On the morning of my fifteenth and final day of quarantine, I awoke ecstatic—deleting an app from my phone had never felt more liberating. Now, I was allowed to travel outside of my apartment, eat something not sold at my designated konbini (no disrespect to Family Mart, I still love your salmon rice balls), and use public transportation. Every day, I commuted using the Yurikamome Rail Line. Along the way, I could see many of the 42 Olympic venues, beginning and ending each day with a view of the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, and Odaiba Island, an artificial trash island made of incinerated garbage from Tokyo.
I began my position as part of the media team at the gymnastics arena. The Olympics is truly a global event: every day I encountered personnel from around the world, hearing Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, French, German, and more.
Apart from the staff were thousands of local volunteers who handled logistics, medical support, and more. Despite the daily PCR tests (four weeks later, I’m pretty sure I don’t have any more spit left to test), language barriers (again, so many different countries!), and grueling hours, the staff and volunteer all shared in being among the handful of people to experience the 2020 Olympics firsthand. And even without crowds of spectators and amidst the looming worry of infection, I am happy to report: the Olympic spirit was alive and well.
I am extremely grateful to have been here in Tokyo. Nothing compares to my the thrill I experienced as I felt the vibrations of an athlete sprinting above my media-designated spot.And no camera shot can match that of the coach’s face erupting in a smile as they embrace their athlete who just claimed Olympic Gold. These Summer Games were, without a doubt, risky. But I am proud that the world could come together and share in this unifying event. May the Olympic magic live on; I am ready to cheer on the Paralympics!
Thank you all so much for your continued support. We look forward to bringing you the voice of more inspiring artists and changemakers in 2021.