With two days before the start of racing at the XXXII Olympiad, most rowing folks involved here in Tokyo are now on site, and most have persevered through travel hurdles, COVID protocols and general scenarios that are radically different from any Olympics that have transpired in the recent past. The good news is that, well, there has been blessedly little bad news out of Tokyo and the Olympic Village as the Games gear up.
Practice at the Sea Forest Waterway course in Tokyo on Wednesday felt almost normal; tons of crews on the water, coaches walking and biking along the venue, some folks talkative, and some tight. Almost normal, just with the addition of masks.
USA W2x of Kristi Wagner and Gevvie Stone
It's not a Showroom
Perhaps one surprising thing about the Olympics is that, when you get right down to it, it's still just a rowing regatta (albeit with a few of the biggest and fittest people you will ever meet in your life). In practice, not every crew doing their final laps before the racing is perfect; the Olympics are not a showroom, at least not yet.
On the flipside, there are a few crews we saw today who looked really polished, and really ready to go.
"Show me your OCHA"
A steady feature of the Olympic days has been all of the necessary COVID countermeasures; you start with registering your health conditions via the Japanese government's OCHA app, then hand-carry a saliva sample for the required daily testing, and then proceed to be registered, screened and questioned ("please show me your OCHA") throughout the day.
The misting station was a hit
Not that any of these steps feel inappropriate or unneccesary at the moment; with an athlete population over 15,000 on hand in Tokyo already, the current count of just five positive COVID tests in the Olympic village feels like a positive.
Notes from the Course
- almost since crews have arrived in Tokyo, the conditions on the course have been a cross-tail wind from the starboard side; combined with what looks to be at least some current flowing down the course, conditions here are likely to be quick. (It's probably also telling that there are wind turbines posted all along the course)
- at Narita airport in Tokyo, visiting Olympic delegation members were greeted with "no high fives!" signs at just about every corner, whew.
- two days before the racing starts, the Canadian crews are still rowing with their customary leaf-less blades; per a long-standing Canadian tradition, the maple leaf logo isn't added to the national team blades until just before the racing starts.
- not sure what was up with this, but Sarah Hawe in the 5-seat of the Australian women's eight was practicing with a painted-on handlebar mustache today
- along the same "what?" lines, NOR M1x Kjetil Borch practiced all day today with a bow marker numbered "16"
- it's fairly typical that the rowing venue grandstands are empty before the racing starts, but the obvious difference this year will be that, without spectators, the racing itself will take place in practice-like conditions. It's been a topic of conversation here; who "thrives in silence," and who typically rallies in front of a large, noisy crowd? We'll see.
- as crews were practicing, the local broadcaster was unboxing a drone the size of an outboard engine at the 1000m mark; here's hoping we get to see it in action.