Following the release of the IOC’s ‘playbooks’ ahead of Tokyo, it’s clear just how different this Olympic and Paralympic Games will be, compared to previous years.
One of the key differences for athletes will be competing in front of a crowd made up solely of Japanese spectators, with international fans not permitted to attend due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
The BAC’s Athlete Engagement Manager, Kristian Thomas, competed in Japan several times during his gymnastics career, and here predicts what British athletes can expect from an all-Japanese crowd.
“If you were to ask people who’ve never travelled to Japan what they believe Japanese people to be like, words such as ‘polite’ and ‘respectful’ would probably come up quite often.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to train and compete in Japan on five separate occasions, and in my experience, the people and culture are every bit as respectful, diligent and helpful as you would expect.
“With crowds in Tokyo to be made up completely of home spectators – and given that we expect there to be limits on the amount of noise they are permitted to make – British athletes can probably expect a more subdued crowd than what they may be used to.
“Nevertheless, this is the Olympic and Paralympic Games, an opportunity to see the best athletes at the peak of their talent, and that will contribute to the spectators filling the venues with the usual sense of excitement and buzz, fitting for the Olympic and Paralympic stage.
“Another obvious factor to consider is the impact that a completely Japanese crowd will have on the home athletes. I was fortunate enough to compete in front of a home crowd at London 2012, and there is no doubt that having the backing of the majority of spectators inspires and drives you on during competition.
“In my experience though, the Japanese are always eager to welcome visitors to their country, and that welcome will certainly extend to sporting venues and arenas. You can be reassured that Japanese spectators will support and appreciate the performances of not just their own competitors, but those of international athletes as well.”