7 weeks in Tokyo (and 2 in Quarantine)

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I'm presently sitting in quarantine in Melbourne so thought I might write a brief report on 7 weeks in Tokyo for the Olympics and the Paralympics.

The phrase ‘Out of the frying pan into the fire comes to mind’ as I leave Melbourne in lockdown on the only flight of the day to Sydney and hence to Haneda after a 7 hours wait in an empty SYD airport. No shops open before check-in on the international side of the airport and only 1 snack bar after security – just crazy getting through this quickly. ANA did open check in exactly 3 hours before departure with a bow to the waiting passengers, most of whom were heading for the Olympics.

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Virgin Domestic Melbourne

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International Departures Melbourne

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One World and Star Alliance at same end of SYD International terminal


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That’s all departures from SYD International on July 20, 2021
 
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Not a parking attendant in sight

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Nobody in sight

ANA Business Class (on a 2-y-o 787-900) was excellent despite some strange cabin colours as we boarded. Meals on all flights were served on a tray and no pre-departure drinks but just excitement to be back on an international flight made up for that.

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ANA Business Cabin 787-900

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These colours did change eventually - its not a camera fault
 
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I really like the concept for the safety video

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Not quite Business Class - I guess we might have to get used to it for a while

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The steak was excellent though - especially after no food all day

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Mt Fiji on approach to Haneda at 0530

I’ll leave out all of the detail of the forms, tests, questionnaires, queuing, downloading of Apps and waiting we had to undertake during the whole 7 weeks, otherwise this report would bore you all and take just too much time. Only to say that it took 4 hours from landing in HND to get out of the airport and 3 hours from landing back in MEL to get to the Hotel.

I will comment though that the Tokyo 2020 volunteers were efficient, patient and forever courteous throughout. (I was fortunate as it took one colleague 10 hours from arrival at NRT on a busy day to get to her hotel in Yokohama – to cover the football). I have never been to a Games where you got through security so quickly and the volunteers were so pleased to see us. They were naturally disappointed that we could not welcome crowds or encourage us to visit more of their country and they actually started crying when I complimented them on their good humor and efficiency.
 
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International Broadcast Centre - CDU operation

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Journalist filing stories in the Transport Mall well after midnight - all the Media busses had good WiFi on board so they moved when the buses pulled out. Its not all glamorous.

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Some of the 300+ logging stations for all incoming content

I do realise that there are some members on this site who have questioned the cost of staging an Olympics, particularly a Summer Games. I do agree that the IOC Host City Contract contains many obligations that the city cannot change and, once signed it becomes a contractual commitment. The IOC has been forced to remove some of the more egregious obligations as less cities want to bid, particularly for a Winter Games but there is still a way to go, especially on the use of more temporary venues and some of the excessive benefits for IOC and Federation members.

However, the Summer Olympic Games is really nearly 40 World Championships or World Cups being conducted simultaneously when you consider some sports have more than one discipline. The International Federations clamber to be included or resist any temptation to be dropped from the programme. They see the Olympics as their best opportunity to promote their sport and so many athletes see the Olympics as a pinnacle of their career.

Clearly SEVEN’s ratings showed that the event is popular and the audience were fully involved right through to the end of the Paralympics. Now that the audience can stream every sport, you can watch hours of Dressage or many Table Tennis tables simultaneously to see Australian and World Champions in action.

Finally, if the Olympics are cancelled, so will the Paralympics as both are linked and predominately organized by the same personnel and using the same facilities.
 
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Tokyo was the 19th opportunity since 1984 I have had to work on the summer or winter Olympics or Paralympics, either as a broadcaster or host broadcast producer. I cannot provide too many photos of the workplace (as it is just like any TV facility but also a secure area each Games).

For the first 14 days we all had PCR saliva tests most days and were limited to Hotel, Games transport and workplace (in my case the International Broadcast Centre [IBC]). Personnel on the field of play with athletes had a test every day.

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The Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre co-located in one convention centre.

The IBC was at the Tokyo Big Sight Convention Centre, SE of the city in a newly developed area Ariake, where the Olympic Village and many venues were located. Some were temporary to keep the costs down but there were a number of legacy stadia – I hope they are all used later. The Olympic Stadium was near Shinjuku, west of the city.

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Just one of a numberr of displays around the IBC

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After 14 days, you could travel further afield on the city transport but encouraged not to go to busy places. The locals all wore masks but not a lot of social distancing. Restaurants were closing at 2000 and most not serving any alcohol.

Between the Olympics and the Paralympics, I thought I better get out and enjoy a bit of Japan but we were really restricted to the Tokyo area so, except for one day to Nagano, I remained in the capital.

I started with a 4 day ‘holiday’ at the Conrad Tokyo that I have posted on the Hilton Forum. It gave me a chance to walk the Ginza and the area around the Shimbashi Station but it was crowded.

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Conrad Tokyo - about three times the size of my Olympic Hotel

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And a much better view, given the other hotel viewed a wall
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Villa Fontaine Room - not comparable.
 
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Enjoyed the Hamarikyo Gardens, in front of the Hotel and the Imperial Palace East Gardens – not busy at all – but it was mid-summer and very hot and humid. Discovered a few Art Galleries and Museums and got very lost in Hibiya Station trying to find my way between half a dozen metro lines.
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Hamarikyo Gardens - across from the Conrad
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One of the Guardhouses at entrance to Edo Castle in the Imperial Palace East Gardens
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Imperial Palace East Gardens

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Tried to get to Nagano for the day via Chino and Matsumoto but floods thwarted me so just went there and back on the bullet train. It seemed to stop at every station but good to see some countryside and the mountains.

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Finally, I made a journey from Shinjuku an hour west to the parks and temples at Mount Takao. Again, quite busy, particularly Shinjuku Station.
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Cable Car upto Mount Takao
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My hotel for 7 weeks was the Villa Fontaine, a new 4 Star in Ariake - part of a chain of Japanese hotels. The rooms – or at least mine – were tiny but the breakfast buffet extensive. Outside the Games period I would imagine this hotel, next to a Mall and a theatre, would appeal to Japanese tourists.

The Paralympics were most enjoyable and uplifting except, of course for the lack of atmosphere in any venue. Mind you, there are so many Victory Ceremonies at the Paralympics as there are so many classifications.

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Australia on the way to another Gold at the Paralympics

As an SQ TPPS, I was obviously really looked forward to two SQ flights back from Tokyo.

Not that I looked forward to a 0530 pickup for 1010 departure but, again the volunteers and organization at NRT were first class. Check in and security, once opened, were easy so I was soon in the ANA Suite Lounge. No alcohol and very limited catering but relaxed and not too busy.
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Not sure about the Star Wars theme
 
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The crewing arrangements on the 787-900 regional to SIN were different to the crewing down to MEL despite the flying times being about the same. When trying to select my favourite seat, 11K, I found that the first 5 rows of Business were blocked. I thought, maybe the Singapore Team was on the flights but it was reserved for the flight crew who had bought the plane from SIN overnight with the cabin crew, presumably at the back of economy. This would have been an 18 hour shift whereas the crew to MEL stayed over either 24 or 48 hours.
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Familiar surroundings again on way home

100 or so passengers boarded but most were NZ Team members – they had a short turnaround in SIN before flying to AKL. We could not walk the plane, as I would normally do, so could not see how many were in PE or Economy.

There were no pre-departure drinks and catering was on one plate with the menu and in-flight entertainment listings only on the SQ App. Drink service and snacks were as normal as was the SQ service although they did keep their distance most of the time. Same safety video as my last flight almost two years ago (why update it if nobody flying). None the less an enjoyable flight. 2021-09-06 11.15.47.jpg
Full Meal on one tray but tasty nonetheless
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Same safety video
 
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I had 19 hours in transit – we were taken (herded) to the far end of A Gates in T3 where a large waiting area was set up, including a separate area for premium passengers but nothing flash and only beer on order, plus a few local snacks. I did book 12 hours in the Transit Hotel for a good night sleep but the Bento box for breakfast was very ordinary. I was escorted to the Hotel and then to the Gate the next morning.
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Never seen T3 like this
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and would much rather see it busy again

We had a regional variant of the A350 to MEL – SQ217 at 1110 – this time maybe 20 on the flight and only a few in Business. Same excellent service levels, not sure I would want to try to sleep with this tighter configuration of seating.

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Singapore Airlines Satay anyone?

One final note – when you do start flying again. We landed in SIN in a bad thunderstorm so a short taxi to T3 but almost had to divert to KUL. The next morning, we took off from the new far west runway 20L/02R the other side of the T5 development that has just commenced. It did not look like 20C/02C runway was in use. It was a good 15 min taxi from Gate B9 in T3 as we took off to the south but, as there is presently no crossover taxiway at the south end of the runway, any takeoff from that end of the runway or landing to the south will entail a 20-25 mins taxi to the far end A gates in T3.

The health team at MEL were slow but efficient and courteous. Not sure I was pleased to see the SQ Lounge being used as a ‘Health Hotel’ for anyone showing symptoms as they arrived in MEL. I’m still at a Mercure in Little Bourke St for 14 days but, at least I have a good view of the city skyline and sky!

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Did not much like the A350 airmap

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Almost Home - pity about the window marks
 
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Guvner

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I assumed the cabin colors on ANA were meant to represent the Olympic rings?
 

lahlee

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Thanks for taking the time to fill us in on your experience. This report made me realise what a crucial resource the forums will be once we take the baby steps towards international travel opening up again - there will be so much to navigate. Many of us will feel like 'newbies' all over again, and sharing info will be more important than ever. Thanks in advance everyone! :)
 

Ade

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Thoroughly enjoyed your report. Thank you for posting this

I have never seen the insides of a broadcasting room or anything related to journalists (unsure what the right word is) or so. So thank you for that :)

Re : the cabin lighting in ANA - I think it's got something to do with mood lighting? It looks like the flight was departing after sunset - so the airline wanted the cabin to have a "cooler" setting to ensure that the pax are able to relax and slip into sleep ? I'd think that if the cabin was brightly lit on boarding and if the lights were left on for a while, it could alter the sleepy mood that is expected during the night flight? Or take the pax longer than usual to fall asleep ?

Re : airline food - looks amazing.

Re : SIN terminals looking empty - agree, NEVER seen SIN terminals empty like this ... a poor sight indeed :(
 
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Thank you for sharing such insightful observations across a range of topics, mel-world.Always enjoy experiencing others’ adventures and observations.
 
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Thanks all for your kind remarks.

I have never seen the insides of a broadcasting room or anything related to journalists (unsure what the right word is) or so. So thank you for that :)

Maybe I can expand a little on my role at the Olympics. I am not a journalist, rather a Television Co-ordinating Producer. I work at the Olympics for a company that provides all the world's media companies with the content they need to craft their telecasts, streams or social media coverage of the Games. This is the Host Broadcaster and they originate over 100 different signals to cover all the sports, including all the camera angles, replays, graphics, data, commentary and much other content, including some interviews.

Broadcasters like SEVEN, Australia or NBC, America do add a few of their own cameras for interviews and their own commentators (often in their home country) for localising their coverage. Meanwhile, the vast amount of their content, especially on Seven Plus comes from the host broadcast. When the Games are on, around 4000 people work to provide this coverage to the broadcasters, both big and small. The host broadcaster often gets as much criticism for missing the Bolivian runner who is 45th in the marathon as something they get wrong in their 48 camera coverage of the equestrian cross country, for example.

Australians are well respected as TV production and technical crew. Two sports were covered by completely Australian crew and there were many of us in other positions across the host broadcast. We did not travel with the Australian athletes so getting flights was difficult.

For COVID, we had to have two PCR tests before we left, another test each day for the first three days and then one every 4 days for 7 weeks (as we did not interact with athletes; otherwise it was a daily test). These were saliva tests, not the one we have in Australia. We also had to fill in an App everyday with our temperature and any symptoms and keep our location active so we could be tracked. For the first 14 days, we were limited to Hotel, workplace or media transport between the two locations - quite restrictive but reassuring.
 
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