Johnny Watterson: These days all the craic in Tokyo is at the venues

The defeated tears from Dublin boxer Emmet Brennan, that’s the real Tokyo 2020

How badly the senses are dimming. Day six and the thorium rods have plunged and the coolant isn’t working. It’s a partial core melt.

I thought the pity party in the airport at arrivals was over until I began a story about how badly the sleepless nights have become, nodding off at 4am, up at seven tired. Racing for two buses and God knows how many hours to the Kokugikan Arena. Boxing.

Then the earthquake on Wednesday night came up, the one at 1am that shook a colleague's hotel just around the corner from the modestly appointed Irish Times lodgings, the Hotel Sakura Ikebukuro, the earthquake I slept through.

On Tuesday it was talking to an elderly Indian man under a tree. He was showing me photographs of people I didn’t know in the Indian Archery Association. I couldn’t hear him speak. The people in the photograph were at the Holi Festival with dye on their faces and really spaced out.


But the tree was full of cicadas. That's the backing sound track for these Tokyo Olympics. Instead of spectators it's cicadas in the trees, in their millions rubbing their hind legs together and filling the air with a kind of soft screeching, swarm noise.

We walk around basking in their glory before we face the bus and another bus and the dim glow of the hotel room

I stared at the dear Mr Agarwal like I hadn’t had a can of Sapporo for 24 hours and realised I was caught in this dystopian world of cicadas, a wall of sound and a picture of the Archery secretary general from Bhubaneswar.

I ran, not very fast. Even that sparked off a minor security alert. Wow, the police here are very attentive.

But that’s the great thing about the senses going doolally at the Tokyo Olympics. Here there are dozens of people around to help. Here there are uniformed traffic co-coordinators in the foyers of the garages with flashing batons to help you swing into you desired pump.

Here when you are walking out the exit of the Tokyo Stadium people are helpfully jogging towards you to tell you, this way to the exit of the Tokyo Stadium and then they bow. Arigato doesn’t seem quite enough.

It’s all very disconcerting. We are in a constant state of feeling that our western discourtesy is being exposed by not paying them the slightest bit of attention. Arigato is not enough for a bow, never mind a jog.


My hotel room window, the one that survived Wednesday’s plate tectonic shift, looks directly into a gym 25 metres away. At nights I watch them work out and am finding that annoying too. Who works out at 2am? Have I mentioned that only on earthquake nights I sleep soundly?

So, I have, in a mood of childish protest, built a pyramid of empty beer cans on the window ledge, which they can all clearly see. It is all just, well, the lifestyle here is getting . . . and I hesitate to use the word. Mundane.

This I should have mentioned at the beginning. Covering an Olympic Games is half the athletes, half the nights out for us. Seems fair. Myself and colleagues freely spend our paper’s money on the delights of whatever city we happen to be in. That’s definitely in the contract.

But here I am putting the final touches to the beer pyramid because the restaurants close at eight and we are not allowed into them anyway and are not allowed into the bars or on to public transport or into the city to sight see or shop or, well how could we get there with no transport. Did I say we are not allowed to walk the litter free streets?

So now I am resenting the gymers in the window pumping away and diligently sanitising every piece of equipment after use.

Yeah, pity I slept through that earthquake. That would have been a bit of craic. Because these days all the craic in Tokyo is at the venues.

The Rugby 7s was cracking until Kenya times two. The boxing has gotten giddy with medal fights approaching. Belfast's Kurt Walker took out some Uzbeki boxing god.

The hockey girls are singing the national anthem louder than everybody else. People in the stands, the few, are thinking WTF. The rowers are bringing tears to our eyes, the four, the lightweight pair, Sanita they are crushing our cynicism for different reasons.

We walk around basking in their glory before we face the bus and another bus and the dim glow of the hotel room. Three Netflix episodes of Ozark, its end has become a minor tragedy.

Then Mona McSharry says "sorry?" when I asked her a question about my favourite Irish beach at Mullaghmore. My voice can't really work though the face mask. Chloe Watkins, when I asked her about the Indian hockey team says "sorry, what?"

Mask issues in Tokyo because we shout at them from six feet away after matches, bouts and sessions. An official asks us to put our recorders on a tray which they place beside the athlete. But the smack of the placing spins the recorders so the recording mic is facing us.

You see, it's the small things, the small things. The defeated tears from boxer Emmet Brennan, a Dublin light heavyweight and his life's work, his art, his tears and that's the real Tokyo 2020.

The Olympic Games is like holding your breath for three weeks with a mountain of trivial distractions like the cicadas in the trees, fat as the Hindenburg and messing up conversations.