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Emiliano Bosso climbs into the elevator of his hotel in Tokyo with a Japanese newspaper under his arm. He has a translator app on his phone and tonight the diary will be the field hockey player’s companion.
This is Argentina’s first Olympic Games and he is delighted. He’s never been to Japan, never had the chance to represent his country like that on the world stage. But since his arrival, he has spent much of his time in isolation, separated from his team in the Olympic Village. He is the substitute goalie and he only plays if there is “bad news”.
“I wake up in the morning and have my breakfast and eat in the room. I take a taxi to go to training and back to the hotel,” he said. “Dinner inside the room.”
Then he starts again.
“It’s difficult because I play field hockey. It’s as a team, with my friends and my players and now I’m alone in the hotel,” he said. “But it’s okay. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m doing what’s best for my team in my position.”
It’s a day in the life of an athlete at the Tokyo Olympics marred by a pandemic that threatens to derail global sporting competition. It cost Japan some $ 30 billion to set up, but taxpayers who have borne the brunt of the cost cannot attend events in the capital and foreign spectators are barred from entering Japan. Tokyo is in a state of emergency and there are protests in the run-up to the opening ceremony and competitions have already started.
In Tokyo, restaurants close at 8 p.m. The thousands of people who arrived for the games are separated as much as possible from residents of Japan. Designated buses and taxis take players to and from where they sleep and where they train and compete.
This is a global sports competition for spectators to roar and cheer. But this year it is defined by isolation. And for the few authorized spectators – including journalists and team members – there are “Clap, don’t sing, don’t sing” signs.
The Games and the thousands of participants feel isolated from the city. The new blank rooms are empty of the tens of thousands of fans they were built for.
Outside of these venues, Olympians do not roam the streets.
“We are not allowed to leave the taxi. We are Dutch. We like to cycle or walk outside,” said Koen de Haan. He is the coach of the Dutch rowing team. He is staying in a hotel in Tokyo, separate from the rowers of the Olympic Village.
“This is the place, this is the hotel. And between us are in a taxi or the rowers are in the bus,” he said.
He therefore watches the city from the windows of the vehicles that take him to and from the rowing site. He is struck by what he does not see.
“You don’t see Olympic rings in Tokyo. It’s not like the city is celebrating the Olympics,” he said. “I think that’s the big difference. Like the other guys who made more Olympics, let’s say normally the city is really proud of the Olympics and you see everywhere, the flags, you see the Olympic symbols. Venues have very large screens on the outside. Inside the rooms, you see it, but on the outside, it’s not too big. Don’t shout out loud. “
The team is, however, prepared for these pandemic Olympics. No distractions, no fans, just the boat and the drive to go faster, he said.
“We say, ‘these might not be the funniest games, but make them the best,'” he said. “They’re focused on the process and what we’re doing on the water. All the other things outside of that just let slip and go with the flow.”
They are here to win. The loneliness of these games, which can strike them later.
“When you’re thirty years older and looking back at the Tokyo Olympics, it’s not the full experience,” he said. “When you win a race and everyone goes crazy. Now it’s just you celebrate in the boat and you have a crazy time for yourself and with the crew.”
It’s a little less special.
“These are weird games and it’s a weird experience,” he said. “But if you win, you are still an Olympic champion.”