Tokyo Field Notes: A Wall of Sandwiches!

I love the Family Mart, two doors down from my hotel. It has sustained me for the entire Olympics.

The routine for this very complex Games is that you arrive, and hard quarantine for three days, then Olympic bubble quarantine, pretty much thereafter. My world is the Olympic approved hotel, the Olympic buses, the Olympic venues, and then reverse that at the end of the day. I cannot venture into my neighborhood for a meal or a beer, not that there’s time. I can only leave the hotel for 15 minutes, signing out, and thence to the Family Mart. And sign back in.

Thank goodness I like their sandwiches–breakfast, lunch and dinner now for 16 days.

The common denominator, as you can see, is egg. Tuna and egg. Tuna, lettuce, ham and egg. Chicken breast, egg and cheese. Ham, cheese and egg. Ham and egg, for a no frills approach. There’s also plain egg, and an omelette sandwich. Thankfully, I like eggs. And the sandwiches are delicious. Throw in some water, OJ, and the occasional Haagen Daz ice cream (only if feel I did well behind the camera that day) and I’ve been set.

I’ve learned many things this particular Olympics. In no particular order, they are:

You could not cover this Games without a smart phone. All the business is done on apps.

Long glass is hard to haul, but worth it. 800mm on monopod, 180-400 by my feet.

Don’t try to down a container of marinated pasta in hasty fashion when you’ve just pulled your face mask down to your chin. (If you pull your mask off to get water or food, you have to be quick to get it back up in place out of consideration for those around you.) I was going to be trapped at my position for the Opening Ceremonies for over six hours, so I tried to jam down some sustenance while I was at my seat, prepping gear. You guessed it, marinara everywhere. For the rest of the night I looked like a masked ghoul. Upside? The marinara sauce was pretty good, and it infused my mask with a wonderful aroma. Which was certainly preferable to my breath at that point in the day.

Short hair is good. I got nearly a buzz cut to prep for the heat of Tokyo. Good move. Additionally, due to COVID, there are no paper towels in the rest rooms, meaning your hands drip dry. I’ve taken to using my head as a drying towel, just rubbing my hands in my hair. Cools me off, sorta dries my hands before I pick up my gear. I don’t worry overmuch about the fact my hair at that point is a mess. Style is a train that left the station, for me, long ago. Besides, 20 hour days humping 40+ pounds of gear in and out of buses and venues all day….well, everybody looks like shit.

The buses have been great, and going back and forth at odd hours to the hotel, often pretty empty.

And there is some measure of sustenance at the press venues. Pockets of soft white bread somehow welded together on four sides to make a pouch filled with strawberry jam and margarine. Editing at the venues at post midnight, I’ve been eating these like popcorn. They can also double as cushions for your lenses if you put ’em in your pockets. There’s probably so many carbs and so much sugar in these, though, you might as well just gaffer tape a couple of them to your ass right now, cause that’s where they’re heading anyway.

One thing I knew about, but re-learned all over again. The Japanese people are amongst the most gracious, helpful and hardworking people anywhere on earth. The staff and volunteers trying to make this complex enterprise work in the midst of this very complex time on our planet are unfailingly wonderful to encounter. One woman left her post and walked this very confused photographer to the right doorway the other day for over ten minutes. Didn’t let me go until she knew I had it dialed in.

There’s understandable confusion, of course. There’s multiple venues named Ariake for multiple sports. So, when dumbass here showed up at the wrong one, and queried a volunteer, “Gymnastics?” And there was a pause, a huge smile, and an enthusiastic “Yes!” After I went through the whole security deal I found it was tennis. Can’t get upset. Just collect your stuff and find the right venue. My bad in the first place. These young people are amazing.

There’s a lot of admirable striving here to pull all this off, but none more so than on the field of play. The athletes! They work so hard, so often in difficult obscurity, for this moment on the world stage. This isn’t just an opportunity to photograph sports. It’s an opportunity to make pictures of sheer, unbridled joy.

More tk….

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