On the eve of the Closing Ceremony of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, AIPS President Gianni Merlo shared his thoughts on the press operations of the event, which offered jaw-dropping sporting spectacles for the ages, in spite of being held under a state of emergency and largely behind closed doors.
He also looked ahead to Beijing 2022 scheduled to take place in six months. Before then, however, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - the biggest Para sports event in the world – will take centre stage from August 24 to September 5, 2021.
“First of all, I must say that everything went as I thought. Because I was one of the few that were saying before that the games will be high level, and COVID will not affect the result of the competition. The organisation here was very good. There were some problems, especially in transportation because they have not changed the programme of last year. The programme of transportation for last year was also connected with the possibility for us to use public transportation that is very good, but this time with the 14 days of soft quarantine that everybody had to respect, it was impossible to use this system. So, there were some moments in which the buses were not enough, even though they were on time. But after this, every problem was solved, especially one problem; if you remember before the games they were speaking about 50% of the journalists inside the venue. In the end, I think we were very close to 100% because they agreed to enlarge the number. We have not spoken officially, but the fact is that all the journalists were very well welcome here and they could work in the proper way. I can tell you that, for example, the press stand at the Olympic Stadium is incredible, nice, very comfortable, a lot of space and it was possible to work in the best way. It is also the case in other venues. When I went to swimming, to judo, to gymnastics, to all the venues, the installation for press is top class. So in this way, we have to thank the organisers for what they did, then I want to thank the IOC press operations that did a lot of pushing in all this month to help the Japanese press operations improve step by step and I think that from their cooperation came out this result that for the journalists, is very good.”
“The competition was great in all the sports. They were very high level because the athletes were focused, and they knew that billions of people were watching them them, because when we spoke with Yiannis Exarchos, that is the Chief of the planet of TV (Chief Executive Officer of Olympic Broadcasting Services), he told us very clearly that the consuming of the images via streaming, on TV and so on, was incredible, bigger than any other time. So the athletes were not alone, in the stadium, yes, there was only us, some coaches, some other athletes, but even these few people were making a good noise and I think that the results are incredible, for example in athletics something unbelievable happened. Yes, for Italy I can tell you that there was seven minutes that marked the history of our athletics when Lamont Marcell Jacobs won the 100m and at the same time also our top jumper in the high jump Gianmarco Tamberi has done something that was never done before; has made the tie with the Qatari Mutaz Essa Barshim, and our Jimbo was making a lot of noise and after in the same time, Jacobs came after winning the 100m, it was something special that has never happened before. And after, we have discovered that this track is really special, look at what Warholm did in the 400m hurdles and also Benjamin behind him and also Dos Santos behind him; the girls of the 100 and 200m, Elaine Thompson, and after there were also other very clear situations, the 200m of de Grasse, and there are others that have to come because this venue and this track has created a new era for athletics, now Tokyo is the Promised Land for athletics and I hope that in the next year, one top event will come here again because with this track, many other athletes can have the possibility to improve their best, and also enter into the new history of athletics. Also in other sports it was the same, look at what happened in swimming, in judo, in gymnastics - the crisis of Biles and other people that came out. In every sport, I think that this was a great Olympics that has answered to the assault of the COVID. And this is the most important thing: we won.”
“For Beijing now, we will know exactly what will happen in October when the playbook for Beijing is out, because for now, in this moment, every citizen that is going back to China has to observe 14 days of strict quarantine in a hotel chosen by the government and after that another seven days at home. I think that in Beijing they have to study something very similar to here. They are preparing a bubble for the journalists. In some way, it’s not so difficult over there because there are many of hotels around the Olympic Park - I remember when we were there in 2008. And after, there are some quick trains that are going to the mountain that can be organized properly. I think that they can do it also. The problem is, how we can enter China in the moment of the games, but we will know this only in a few months because they have to control everything in their country, the virus in their country. I think that we must always be very cautious. But anyway, I'm sure that even the Chinese can promote themselves also because they are very good organizers. And after the experience here in Tokyo, they can have a better idea, a clear idea of how to behave.”

 AIPS Media Photo by Getty Images)