After two weeks of bubble to bubble quarantining from my hotel room to the Olympic Boxing venue I was a free man to walk the streets of Tokyo.
However, the Olympic Games were now just days away and the hours of work increases so there is not much free time at all. One part of Japanese culture that I learned was that ‘You don’t leave the office until the boss has left’. I did wonder why some people were still at the venue past 10pm. I’m not sure if this culture of work would catch on in the UK. Although another Japanese work culture is that you are allowed to have a day time nap at work. This one would definitely catch on.
People speak a lot about Japanese cultures and traditions and some of them are truly wonderful, which make you think we should all incorporate them into our own lives. We had a couple more office based days before the team would start working fully operational. We were all asked to write our wishes for the games onto a piece of paper. Everyone would then tie these wishes onto a small tree that was based in the office. This would bring good luck to the games. What a lovely gesture. All of the wishes were written in Japanese from my colleagues, but I still added mine…
With the games still being at the height of the pandemic and Japan having tight restrictions we faced some challenges. However we soon had the chance to meet the volunteers that would be working at the boxing event. The volunteers are always the heartbeat of the games. I started as one myself at London 2012 so I know the excitement of the first time you see the boxing ring, Olympic Athletes walking past you and getting the best photo opportunities for your memory bank.
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There is limited time to train over 120 people so our guidance must make an impact. It’s also a challenge to communicate if there are language barriers, but working internationally you learn new techniques along the way. Interpreters, translators and lots of physical expressions. We don’t worry too much about misinterpretations or language barriers, sometimes these moments bring the humour and human feel, which bring a togetherness and unity.
So what do you actually do?
I guess the term is Event Management or Event Operations. They are still quite umbrella terms. On an operational basis we manage the movement of everyone in the sport of boxing. The athletes, the coaches, the officials and the volunteers. The athlete journey begins from the hotel room to the boxing ring. Along that journey boxers will have to weigh-in in the morning, travel to the boxing venue, check in to the back of house and access the sports equipment (gloves, hand wraps and headguards for females) before making their way to the ring to compete. It might sound simple but there are many factors along each operation.
Similar paths have to be taken by the coaches, officials, staff and volunteers. In each session there could be around 40 boxers, 120 coaches, 60 officials and 80 volunteers. There are usually around 16 sessions across 10-12 days. The operation needs to be perfectly smooth. Once you start adding 10,000 spectators (although we had zero in Tokyo), the broadcast crew, security, transport, medical teams and sports presentation teams such as producers, floor managers, announcers and commentators, it can all become quite hectic. The paramount is to have two athletes inside the boxing ring competing safely at an elite level.
As the great Mike Tyson said ‘Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face’ and to excuse the pun, you take a lot of punches during events management. But that’s why we love it.
The Olympic Games were about to begin. The height of the pandemic. Many many curve balls to consider along the way. I was grateful that I had seen lots of Tokyo in 2019 when I attended the Olympic Test Event. However, I knew I was blessed and grateful for such an opportunity. This was not realised more so than when I opened the curtains of my 25th floor hotel room. The most magnificent views of Tokyo, which I enjoyed just staring at the city. At night or by day it looked incredible. I can’t believe I took these photos and you’ll probably already know the pictures don’t even do it justice.
The Olympic Games is the only event in the world where every single nation on this planet attends. It’s the pinnacle of multi-sport events with over 200 nations watching.
I’ll leave you with one last photo. As I’d arrived 4 weeks prior to the games my 2 week quarantine allowed me to walk the streets of Tokyo and I even managed to go to the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree (the 2nd highest building in the world). My colleague Colin had arrived a few days later due to other work commitments so was still in the bubble to bubble quarantine. Unfortunately that meant he wasn’t allowed to eat lunch with us and had to sit on a table on his own. Don’t worry, he joined us a few days later and we went for the best sushi ever.
I hope you enjoyed reading a brief introduction to events, Olympic Boxing and Tokyo.
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