, I’m stuck inside the Olympic bubble, The Nzuchi Times

I’m stuck inside the Olympic bubble

I am inside the Olympic bubble, outside the four-day lockdown imposed since arriving in Tokyo from Australia to report on the world’s greatest sporting event, but still inside the 14-day quarantine with restricted movement.

I can see the lights of the skyline, but I’m not yet able to explore the sights such as Tokyo Tower or the luxury shopping district of Ginza. I did get out for a run along the Tokyo Waterfront City Running Course, which was as close to a dystopian sporting experience I’ve ever come. Just a handful of runners braving the humidity; none of the hustle and bustle Tokyo is so famous for.

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See also: What you won’t see in the Olympics

Travelling during these strange pandemic times also allows me a two-hour window to grab dinner. I find myself at a table divided by sheets of perspex. This Cone of Silence experience allows for zero interaction with fellow diners. Then upon returning to the hotel  I complete mandatory Covid testing with the old spittle-in-the-test-tube trick. This is the Olympics in 2021.

The last stamp in my passport reads “Lisboa 09.08.19”. I’d wondered what it would be like flying into an Olympic host city in the middle of a state of emergency. In short: paperwork, lots of it, jabs and Covid testing. Even now, out of a “stay-at-home” lockdown for four days in my hotel room, I must provide daily samples as part of media working at these games. This includes a saliva sample – spitting into a little tube, sticking on a bar code and walking it over to the Main Press Centre to be processed.

, I’m stuck inside the Olympic bubble, The Nzuchi Times

Selina Steele dining in Tokyo.

But this is nothing compared to the process of getting here. Straight-out palaver. Two PCR tests, 96 and 72 hours before departure, and forms from the Japanese government to be completed and a mountain of administration. Plans for the first 14 days of our stay had to be approved, while various phone apps had to be downloaded to record medical information and monitor our whereabouts. Add to that a written pledge to adhere to Covid safety rules, and a three-hour screening process at the airport on arrival.

, I’m stuck inside the Olympic bubble, The Nzuchi Times

Covid tests for press and delegates at Tokyo Olympics.

Travel during Covid is inconsistent. Duty-free was open in Sydney, but closed in Melbourne and in Changi, Singapore. But with the car window open en route to my hotel, and wafts of city streets, highway fumes, and that distinct Asian humidity, none of that mattered. The 24 hours from leaving Sydney to arriving in Tokyo was worth it. And then it hit me like a kimchi facial spritz: travel today is a privilege.

As is meeting like-minded souls. From the Russian timekeeper at breakfast, here to officiate the marathon swimming, and the American snapper focused on superstar gymnast Simone Biles to enthusiastic Japanese volunteers manning the venues – travel has always been about people.

, I’m stuck inside the Olympic bubble, The Nzuchi Times

Shop curtains produced by six overseas artists who competed in the Olympics and Paralympics are displayed at an underground passageway.

It was feared that visitors to Tokyo for the Olympics would be met with hostility as Covid-19 superspreaders.

, I’m stuck inside the Olympic bubble, The Nzuchi Times

That’s not so, but, as expected, it’s different. Many restaurants aren’t serving alcohol and sittings, perspex included, last from 6pm-8pm, you must stand in lifts facing the wall – on all four sides – and you dare not forget a mask.

Official event organisers have warned accredited media that the Japanese public would not hesitate to shame us on social media if we broke the rules. And fair enough.

Like the games, travel will go on. But only if we recognise and treat it as the privilege it really is.

See also:

This traveller is visiting every Olympic city

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My accidental trip to a Japanese bondage bar

8 rules not to break when visiting a Japanese onsen

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