Arigato Gozaimasu, Tokyo: Godzilla, Simone Biles and the Olympics reporting experience

The Indians came back with a record haul of seven medals and Neeraj Chopra’s gold was the icing on the cake. Excerpts from the reporter's diary in Tokyo.

The Diary's second week in the Japanese capital was as entertaining as the first…   -  AP

The Olympics are over. And it’s time for the Diary to head home. But he’s still struggling to reset his sleep cycle. The 2020 Tokyo Games have truly been like no other. The country managed to pull off the greatest sporting carnival in the world without any major hiccups and ensured the safety of all stakeholders.

The Indians came back with a record haul of seven medals and Neeraj Chopra’s gold was the icing on the cake. And the Diary's second week in the Japanese capital was as entertaining as the first…

Can we just rent the buses?

Diary paid a hefty sum for the hotel room in Tokyo. The organisers had insisted the travelling media should stay in one of the designated hotels and avail of the shuttle buses to the Games venues. While Diary hardly stayed about five hours a day in these over­priced, matchbox­-sized rooms, he did spend an inordinate amount of time on these buses. The limousine buses were reliable, punctual, had strong air conditioning (an absolute boon), and terrific WiFi connection. For reporters, shuttling between venues spread about 130km, these were homes. Copies were filed, snacks gobbled, and naps taken on the comfort of these urban machines.


Aditi Ashok in action on the final day of the golf event   -  Shyam Vasudevan

4 hours of sleep, 250km of travel

But taking the buses also meant long waiting periods. As the night progressed, the frequency diminished. After an excruciatingly long day of covering the Indian women’s hockey team’s bronze medal match and Bajrang Punia’s semifinal, Diary got to the main bus station around midnight JST. Half an hour later a bus dropped him at the hotel at 2 am.

Four hours of sleep, and the Diary had to run to catch a bus, again, to the Gold Course, where Aditi Ashok was closing on a spectacular podium finish. The Indian golfer – despite a stunning show – fell agonisingly short of a medal. The Diary had to get to the Tokyo Olympic Stadium to catch Chopra in action. And so began the journey of two bus rides over 100­ odd km. Coffee and bananas were the fuel for the day, but the Indian javelin thrower’s gold medal triumph took the fatigue away.


Every journalist attending the team gymnastics event was given a numbered coupon. Coupons picked in a drawing of lots then stood a chance to interact with Simone Biles in the mixed zone.   -  Shyam Vasudevan


Lucky draw to speak to Biles

Watching Simone Biles in action is a dream come true. Speaking to her is like bagging the lottery. Funnily enough, there was actually a lottery to get access to the world’s greatest gymnast. The media heads at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre gave every journalist attending the day’s proceedings a numbered coupon and asked them to report at 7:30 pm JST to find out whether they would be lucky enough to get the limited mixed zone passes.


Diary waited with bated breath, holding his ticket No. 66 but they never called his number. However, a fellow journalist was kind enough to offer Diary his pass.

Weather trumps technology

The Tokyo weather is often unbearable. It was 33 degrees on the day India won bronze in men's hockey. The reporters had queued up in the mixed zone, a tiny sun friendly passage with barricades separating the players from the scribes. The players were happy to chat, but then horror struck. The heat had caused the mobile phones to overheat, and they stopped recording. As everyone panicked, a good Samaritan was there to the rescue with an old school dictaphone. Old is truly gold.

On another day, it was the rain. Still reliving Chopra’s gold in the head, the Diary, and his friends were soaked even as they sprinted to the taxi stand some 800m away. The phones, of course, crashed again.


The first movie Diary watched as a child was Godzilla and the day, he got to Tokyo he noticed a massive Godzilla mounted on a building few blocks away. And for the last few days in Tokyo, Diary and Godzilla shared the same home, the Gracery Hotel in Shinjuku.


'Taste' of home   -  Shyam Vasudevan


Slice of India

Diary always thought he is not fussy about food. But as a vegetarian, in Tokyo, his main source of sustenance was protein bars, juice, coffee, and a few morsels of corn here and there. This was no place for a vegetarian. But when a random online search suggested an Indian restaurant less than 4km away, Diary knew he had to make the trip. The owner was kind enough to accommodate the three of us, minutes before closing the kitchen. The Andhra Meals – rice...dal…sambar...rotis... – finally offered Diary a full meal and a happy tummy.