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Ready, set, almost a GO! Summer academic experience with Olympians taking shape

With flights, hotel accommodations, and Olympic tickets confirmed for men’s 3-meter springboard diving at the Tokyo Aquatic Center, women’s basketball at the Saitama Super Arena, and beach volleyball at Shiokaze Park, the reality of the fifth Academic Experience with Olympians is sinking in. The 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics, dubbed the “futuristic Olympics,” will be one of the most expensive and technologically advanced to date. There to experience it first-hand from July 22-Aug. 5 will be 19 delegates from the USA, Central America, China, and Africa with ties to Tiffin University.

Of the 19, five professors and 12 students hail from Tiffin University, Baldwin Wallace University, University of Miami, William Paterson University (NJ), Kutztown University (Pennsylvania), Mount St. Joseph and the United States Sports Academy (Alabama). The final two delegates include Olympians who were in Tiffin in the fall of 2018 for Elite Sport and Culture Week. Francis Dove-Edwin from Sierra Leone, Africa competed in the 100, 200, and 400-meter dash at the 1988 and 1992 Games in Seoul, South Korea and Barcelona, Spain, respectively. He also was a former visiting instructor in TU’s sports management program. Jan Boutmy, from the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curacao competed in sabre’ fencing at the 1964 Tokyo and the 1968 Mexico City Games. Now serving as the Vice President of the Pan American Olympians Association, Boutmy’s participation at the 2020 Tokyo Games will be his 11th Olympics as an athlete, judge, volunteer, director of fencing information services, and coordinator of the Olympian’s reunion center.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in the Tiffin University delegation will score tickets to the Opening Ceremonies to view a flying car light the Olympic flame or the Sky Canvas project, an artificial high-tech meteor star shower that will blanket Tokyo’s National Stadium. It is certain, however, that the Tiffin delegation likely will benefit from new eco-friendly open-air cooling stations that will ease what is expected to be extreme temperatures.

Technology is being touted as a huge part of the 2020 Games. Toyota is to sport a limited number of taxis featuring robotic drivers and QR codes will assist in delivering luggage directly to pre-booked hotel rooms rather than owners waiting around the Narita or Haneda baggage claim area. Robots also will greet individuals at each airport and free-floating holograms will enhance the spectator experience. Verification of athletes, coaches, judges, event staff, and media will be aided by advanced facial recognition systems while drone-based surveillance technology will assist a security staff of more than 14,000.

With a metropolitan population of almost 14 million, Tokyo is one of the largest, most modern, and most expensive cities in the world. It is no surprise that the approximately $30 billion budget is earmarking the 2020 Olympics as one of the most expensive in history in a city expected to cater to no less than 600,000 visitors. Price gouging by hotels and AirBnB hosts have been very real. Once again, cruise ships will be available as a high-priced alternative for accommodations (the USA men’s and women’s basketball teams stayed on a luxury liner for the 2016 Rio Games).

Ticket scarcity is also very real thus far with price gouging apparent. Two tickets for the Opening Ceremonies at the 2016 Rio Games were purchased for face value at approximately $300 each. A scan of the internet yields brokers pricing the same ticket for the 2020 Opening Ceremonies at $6,700. Face value for the cheapest seats is only $139. Media reports indicate that between 80-90% of the 7.5 million Japanese residents who applied for Olympic tickets this summer were shut out due to high demand and limited supply. Incidentally, it’s also been reported that 80% of the expense to host the 2020 Olympics will be relegated to taxpayers.

With all the rage of expensive taste and high-tech propaganda that will secure Tokyo’s place as a futuristic city in its 2020 legacy sport year, it seems ironic that the bed frames in the Olympic Village will be constructed of recyclable cardboard. At least athletes and visitors can enjoy the panoramic view of Mount Fuji from almost anywhere in the city.

Stay tuned for more updates on the 2020 Academic Experience with Olympians in Tokyo this summer. Stay tuned as well for more interesting sport stories from around the world, around the country, and right here in Tiffin, Ohio.

Bonnie Tiell is a professor of sports management at Tiffin University.

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