For many, many months now I have been saying, in the wake of the Covid_19 outbreak, that a huge sense of relief will be felt when the beleaguered Tokyo 2020 Olympics games finally come to an end. I`m sure that still holds true but I reckon there`s a slight sense of disappointment for many that two and a bit weeks of action have flown by in no time, and now there is something of an empty feeling as so often happens when a big sporting tournament finishes.
After so much talk, there was a lot of curiosity regarding the opening ceremony and it seemed to sensibly and calmly reflect the times we live in nowadays. The Japanese got off to a flying start and the gold medals just continued to accumulate which may have helped a lot of the home nation (at least temporarily) forget about all the problems caused by the Olympics not being cancelled as many wanted.
For those still interested in taking note of the games, a real wave of optimism continued throughout the fortnight as it became all about the sports men and women inspiring people and providing positivity and hope with their performances, passion and heart-warming moments of sportsmanship.
It`s been far from all positive though as the cases of coronavirus in Tokyo reached record heights. The IOC deserve criticism for not listening to Japan`s opposition to the games but it wasn`t the athletes and personnel that brought Covid. Instead it was the Japanese population who failed to maintain precautions in spreading it amongst themselves.
It was all a bit overwhelming at times with about half a dozen different sports being shown on various TV channels, and I found it hard to keep up with it from a British perspective as they naturally focused on their own athletes here with very little time devoted to anyone else. If there wasn`t a Japanese person involved then the events just didn`t get given any airtime.
Unable to attend the events in Tokyo which I had tickets for, I still wanted to get into the Olympic spirit a bit more (other than just watching TV) so went to a few places. First up was the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Cauldron in Ariake which I accessed by walking over Yume no Ohashi Bridge from Tokyo Teleport Station on the Rinkai Line.
Rather foolishly I chose the hottest day of the year to see the flame which was lit by tennis superstar Naomi Osaka in the opening ceremony. A couple of dozen people were milling around the cauldron taking shots whilst security and voluntary staff did their best to usher people away and to respect the Covid protocols in place.
Continuing on in the same direction for another five minutes or so then brought me to this flowery sculpture of the respective Olympic and Paralympic mascots Miraitowa and Someity. They are located close to Kokusai-tenjijo Station.
The Rinkai Line stations were decorated with Tokyo 2020 motifs too.
Over in Nihombashi I went to the Olympic Agora exhibition (open till August 15th) on the third floor of Coredo Muromachi Terrace. For the record, I still have no idea what agora means! It`s free to get in but reservations are needed in order to restrict the number of entrants. I went on a weekday and just reserved it an hour in advance before leaving my school to head over that way.
The check-in area is down on the basement floor before a lift takes a limited number of people up to the event floor. It`s divided up into different zones designed to showcase the history, values and cultural legacy of the games through a variety of interesting Olympic exhibits.
It was no surprise to see a wall of posters from not just every Summer Olympic games but the Winter ones too.
The zone that follows was a dark room full of the different torches used in various Olympic games.
There were outfits and costumes from the last three Olympics in Rio, London and Beijing as well as the previous two American games in Atlanta (1996) and Los Angeles (1984). Personally, I`ve never been too bothered by the opening and closing ceremonies so didn`t recognise anything at all and even learned for the first time that there had been a focus in 2012 on the rich tradition of British children`s literature including 30 Mary Poppins dancers. Director Danny Boyle also wanted to emphasise the important role the NHS has played in the construction of modern Britain`s identity. Not exactly topical now but it was interesting to see the various costumes.
I didn`t see it written down but presumably the final room of actual exhibits was all about various sportsmen and women who have displayed the Olympic spirit in various ways whether it be striving for excellence or demonstrating respect.
It didn`t just focus on legendary athletes like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Cathy Freeman or Nadia Comaneci but also on others such as Eric the Eel and Britain`s Derek Redmond whose heartbreaking moment makes me well up inside every time I see or read about it.
In the centre of the room were cabinets displaying the different styles of gold, silver and bronze medals from all previous Olympic games. I never realised they were all so different!
There was one more zone with two massive TV screens showing some images of Olympic spirit and frienship. Naturally the exit took one fairly directly to the ubiquitous souvenir shop which was busy and doing a roaring trade as indeed were all the various other Olympic stores around the city.
The Olympic Agora isn`t just about the indoor museum-type exhibition though as there are a few games-inspired pieces of art on the streets around the building. The colourful creation below is by French artist Xavier Veilhan and shows five people of different generations with each person in the colours of one of the Olympic rings. There was an interactive podium art-piece nearby too.
The next building down the road is the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower which houses a 10m-high replica of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medal.
Round the corner in the Fukutoku no Mori plaza was this baton pass mesh sculpture by contemporary artist Makoto Tojiki which presumably looks more impressive when lit at night.
As well as Tokyo 2020 flags everywhere there were lots of other more subtle Olympic themed things such as lanterns in the flags of competing nations and posters from previous games in the windows of some buildings. It was all very nice but did seem a little bit sad that it was all the locals could really get out of the games beyond what they watched on their screens.
Next up was another Olympic rings monument in Nihombashi which is similar to the ones in Odaiba and outside the Japan Olympic Museum opposite the National Stadium.
Whilst some of these exhibits were all many got to see, I was very lucky to be able to actually attend two days of track cycling at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka Prefecture which lies about 90 miles south-west of the capital city.
The photos below were taken back in January when this rings monument was often devoid of any people. That changed in the days building up to the opening ceremony and beyond as crowds gathered to get their own personal shots of the rings which they kept seeing on every TV report about the games.
Click here to read `At The Velodrome For Two Days Of Live Track Cycling At The Tokyo 2020 Olympics`
Click here to read `What It`s Like To Be A Spectator At The Tokyo 2020 Olympics`
Click here to read `Reignite Your Passion For The Olympics At This Tokyo Museum`
Click here to read ‘The “Other” Olympic Museum In Tokyo’