There are now less than two weeks to go until the Olympic Games get underway, with badminton among the first sports to take centre stage.
Our Team Leader, Jon Austin, flew out to Tokyo recently and is spending the first part of his trip ensuring everything is in place ahead of the squad’s arrival on Thursday.
Here, Jon gives his thoughts on his first impressions of Tokyo along with the excitement – and challenges – which lie ahead before the Games get underway…
I arrived in Tokyo at about 3.30pm local time on Friday. There were extensive checks and plenty of testing involved, including at both airports, but I have no complaints whatsoever – it is completely necessary in the circumstances.
I’m in familiar territory at the hotel, which I’ve stayed in several times before, and Team GB have set up designated areas so it’s as safe as it can be. We are in a Team GB bubble prior to moving into the village six days prior to the start of the competition, when the team come I’m sure they will settle in quickly with everything that has been put in place for them.
But not everything is so familiar. With the pandemic, I’ve not been able to get to Japan for the past two years and we have had to make some alterations to our plans in the run-up to the Games.
Because of the change in government regulations in Japan, we were originally going to fly in and train at the venue 10 days prior to the start of the competition.
Now, we are only allowed to train in the venue for five days prior, which isn’t long enough for us to prepare and acclimatise to the temperature and humidity changes plus jetlag.
With that in mind, we will now join in with the Team GB prep camp. We will be based at Keio University for three days of training and acclimatisation, which is a significant change to our original plan and very different to what we’ve done for an Olympic Games before.
The prep camp will see us mix with other sports, and we are going to be in a training hall with fencing, taekwondo, boxing and table tennis. Having got here six days before the team arrive I have started to recce everything to ensure all is set up as it should be, and two Yonex courts are being laid down which will be exactly the same as the competition venue.
Checking out our competition venue itself has also been on my to-do list, we are familiar with the environment having competed there before at the last Japan Open, however we need to understand the effect of additional covid protocols and also the travel arrangements during the Games. Our venue is one of the furthest from our accommodation in the village, to know what the journey will be like accounting for Games time traffic and the effectiveness of the Olympic lanes is important for our planning.
The official guide say it takes 48 minutes to get to the venue from the village but we anticipate it could take anything up to an hour and a half. The team that will support the players may yet be required to travel two or three times a day so essential to be clear of the situation.
To help with this, Team GB have allocated a vehicle to us to try and ease the travel and give us more flexibility.
I haven’t driven in Tokyo before so I’m using this week to familiarise myself with driving in Japan, and experience what that journey could be like. Thankfully they drive on the same side of the road as us but I think driving in Tokyo could be quite an experience!
In summary, then, we are having to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing circumstance but we are fortunate to have experienced people in our team with the full support of Team GB.
I’m confident we will be well prepared and ready for what lies ahead. Hopefully I will be able to provide some further insight once the team arrive and as we edge closer towards the Games beginning.