When the IOC and the Japanese government decided that spectators would not be present at all for Olympic sports in Tokyo (and surrounding prefectures Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa) it was hugely disappointing for all of those with tickets who were still keen to see live action in some form.
However, a few sports were taking place a bit further afield and I was lucky to have tickets for a couple of them. The likes of Miyagi (football) and Shizuoka Prefectures (road cycling, track cycling) didn`t totally ban spectators though so my Olympic dream was kept alive. Given that audience participation was also prevented in Sapporo and Fukushima I was half expecting Shizuoka to follow suit. I did not believe it would happen until I actually saw cyclists going around the track.
Personally, I think the games should`ve been cancelled but if they were to stubbornly go ahead then I still wanted to experience it in some way as it`s unlikely I`ll ever be able to attend an Olympics again. Track cycling was the one event I really wanted to attend and the day before it began I headed down to Izu to stay at my parents in law`s house before meeting up with Aussie James and his friend Swiss Aurelian outside Ito Station the next day.
After being handed a free ice-pack we were ushered towards the shuttle bus by the many volunteer officials. It was all very organised as you`d expect in Japan with officials pointing you in the right direction every five metres or so. One of them even said “Welcome to Japan” as if we were tourists having just stepped off the plane!
Hand sanitiser was on hand to be applied a couple of times and after boarding the bus it left exactly on time at 1:15 pm. We had had to reserve our seats online beforehand which was simple enough and didn`t cost anything. As the Izu Velodrome is in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, it actually takes about 30 minutes for the bus to wind its way up the road along the same route which I had rather foolishly cycled up a couple of years ago. It`s a rather steep climb so pushing my bike was what I mostly did! I had expected a library-type atmosphere on the bus but we weren`t the only ones chatting away excitedly in anticipation of what was ahead.
On disembarking the bus we were again left with no option but to take the designated route through a load of Covid_19 safety measures. No freedom to roam the area! First up was a quick moving line followed by a temperature check.
We then had to put our baggage through a scanning machine as is customary at airports. Spectators are allowed to take one drinks bottle in but you have to take a swig of it in front of the staff to show that it`s not gasoline or whatever!
The one and only time I had to show my ticket (printed out on A4 paper) was just after that. The QR code in the top corner was scanned and accepted and that was it. I was finally past all security and Covid protocol checks. I was quite surprised to find out that the Izu Velodrome (1826 Ono, Izu-shi, Shizuoka) only opened a decade ago as I thought it looked a bit older than that!
We assumed the fairly long line we saw was to get into the actual velodrome but we should`ve known better as this was the queue for merchandise which the Japanese have a a reputation for lapping up.
My phone is full of various combos and poses with different flags and so on with the velodrome in the background. Below are just a couple of the “more interesting” ones!
The track action was due to start at 3:30 pm and so we headed in to take our seats about an hour before that. On my previous visit to the Velodrome I never got inside so this was my first time to see the interior and it was all rather impressive.
Our seats weren`t actually together but the staff just assumed we were all together and so just looked at one ticket. Subsequently I just decided to sit with them in their more expensive seats until told otherwise but no one ever said anything. As it was, my designated seat (half the price of theirs) was only about a 20 seats away to the right and basically the same view!
Another photo with my Leicester City Japan supporters group towel was taken to show that what I`d said previously on the BBC Radio Leicester breakfast show was true. It`s always nice to show off ones football allegiance even if it is for a completely different sport!
James had asked me to bring my Aussie cork hat to help him show his support (in stereotypical fashion!) for his home country and it did actually get the attention of the Channel 7 TV crew from Australia who later sent someone up into the stand to ask him if he was alright with being interviewed later on but he politely declined.
The velodrome can hold 3600 spectators when it`s full but this time it was way below 50% capacity and at a guess I`d say about 800 fans were inside as well as all the media and voluntary staff. In fact there were probably more of them than actual fans!
The first day was predominantly women`s team sprint races but there was a solitary men`s team pursuit qualifying race in the middle of it all. I will go into detail about the actual cycling action in my next post. There was just one medal event on the first day and the ceremony for that brought proceedings to a close with a cameraman focusing on our fairly non-existent reactions throughout it all.
With nearly an hour to kill back at Ito Station before our train we decided to get a convenience store beer and head down to Orange Beach to toast how lucky we`d been to get to see some live Olympics action. You really can`t beat an away day travel to a sporting event and selecting the track cycling in a different prefecture to the host city fortunately turned out to be a masterstroke. We weren`t so lucky with the rain though and decided to return to the station. You can`t have everything I guess!
Click here to read `At The Velodrome For Two Days Of Live Track Cycling At The Tokyo 2020 Olympics`
Click here to read `A Long & Steep Ride To Check Out The Cycle Racing Track Which Will Be Used At Tokyo 2020`
Click here to read ‘Warming Up For Tokyo 2020 Cycling With A Trip To See Some Local Keirin Action’
Click here to read `Reignite Your Passion For The Olympics At This Tokyo Museum`