A Dutch rowing trainer had a depressing description of what the pandemic Olympics are like

A rower on the water at the Tokyo Olympics.
An Italian rower trains in Tokyo. Jae C. Hong/AP Images
  • COVID-19 has dramatically changed the Olympics, as there are no fans and little for athletes to do.
  • A Dutch rowing trainer told NPR that they aren’t getting the “full experience” of a normal Olympics.
  • The trainer noted that celebrations will be much more muted without fans in attendance.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With COVID-19 cases surging in Japan, life at the Tokyo Olympics looks much different than usual.

There will be no spectators allowed. Athletes are shuttled to and from events and aren’t supposed to leave the bubbled village. They’re discouraged from drinking in public and mingling with one another. Athletes even have to put their own medals on after events rather than having them placed around their necks.

As Dutch rowing trainer Koen de Haan told NPR, it makes for a vastly different experience than most Olympics.

“It’s the venue. It’s the hotel. And in between, we’re in a taxi, or the rowers are on the bus,” de Haan said.

He added: “When you’re thirty years older, and you look back to the Tokyo Olympics, it’s not the full experience.”

He said the celebrations would be much more muted, too.

“When you win a race, and everybody goes nuts. Now it’s only celebrating yourself in the boat, and you have a crazy moment for yourself and with the crew,” he told NPR.

The trainer told NPR that he has been looking at Tokyo from outside his hotel room window and doesn’t see much buzz for the games.

“It’s not like the city is celebrating the Olympics,” he said. “I think that’s the big difference. Like the other guys who did more Olympics, say normally the city’s really proud of the Olympics, and you see everywhere, the flags, you see the Olympic symbols. All the venues have really big screens outside.

“Inside the venues, you see it, but from outside, it’s not too big.”

Indeed, polls, including a recent one from the Japanese newspaper Asahi, have shown that most Japanese citizens are against these games.

Emiliano Bosso, an Argentinian field hockey player, told NPR his days are repetitive and strict: “I wake up in the morning, and I have breakfast and eat inside the room. I get a taxi to go to the practice and back to the hotel. Dinner inside the room.”

Despite the unusual nature of these games – dubbed the “surreal games” by some – de Haan has tried to keep a positive attitude about the experience.

“We say, ‘Maybe it’s not the most fun games, but make it the best games,'” he said. “They focus on the process and what we do on the water. All other things besides that, just let it slide and just go with the flow.”