TOKYO – If a normal week on the PGA Tour has a few tires to overcome, arriving at the Olympics will feel more like an obstacle course. Many things can cause your Olympics to fail. Just ask Bryson DeChambeau. Or Jon Rahm.
There are the two Covid tests that are only required to board a plane departing for Japan. Both results must be confirmed by a doctor and signed on a special waiver from the Japanese government, and both must be made within 96 hours of departure. Sane enough, but none of this is a quick test. We are talking about PCR tests, which are often not validated after 24-48 hours.
There’s the health monitoring app, which doesn’t really work for everyone traveling from overseas, and the dozen or so airport checkpoints that have your IDs and tests checked over and over again. Are you in the right place? Do you have the right forms? Here’s another test to make sure Covid didn’t arrive during your 20 hour commute. And that’s just to get through airport customs, a process that took the athletes six to seven hours.
These covid control vaccines are great protection, but otherwise they are meaningless in Tokyo. The same rules apply to everyone, gevaxxt and ungevaxxt. Masks almost always on, even when using the village’s training facilities. The guidelines are serious and locals have literally been asked by the organizers to report anyone who breaks the rules. When athletes from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan refused to mask themselves during the opening ceremony, an Olympic spokesman had to answer for it. The children had played during the break.
All the tests, all the site monitoring, all this downtime, plus no fans and no pocket money. Most competitors are thousands of miles from home. Louis Oosthuizen spoke of this in his headlining quote from the 3M Open: “They didn’t really make it easy for us.” The organizers would say that’s kind of the point. For the golf delegate in Tokyo, this will not only be the craziest week of their season. It’s going to be the craziest week of her career. And as if that wasn’t enough, tropical storm Nepartak is expected to hit land by Tuesday.
For those who stayed home, or anyone from the majority vaccinated world, it will be easy to wonder if all of this is necessary – Tour pros scoffed at lesser restrictions during the Open Championship – but the scale of the event it basically implies. There are 11,000 athletes, 6,000 media members, and thousands of volunteers and officials running around as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread. A six-month high for new cases was recorded here in Tokyo on Thursday, and more than 130 people involved in the Games have already tested positive for the virus, 58 of them in the last four days alone.
Jon Rahm tests positive for Covid-19, will miss the Olympics
With that in mind, the 70-page document known as the Athlete Playbook seems a lot more reasonable than it did weeks ago. One of the provisions calls for competitors not to use the dining facilities during peak hours on non-working days as the actual competitors may be eating during the day. Athletes are tested every day, which could explain why so few golfers attended the opening ceremony. It’s pretty safe to be here, but when you don’t have to be …
Much of the discussion about golf at these Olympics revolved around these limitations and the players who wanted nothing to do with them. But what about the actual Olympians? Mel Reid skipped a big championship to make sure she could be here. She called it a “once in a lifetime opportunity”. One of Reid’s sidekicks, Rory McIlroy, is clearly at odds with any sort of Irish nationalism, but he believes the Olympics will mean something for the future of golf and he plans to jump in after the 2016 skip. For Rafa Campos, it means something right. His Instagram bio yells at you in capital letters: “1st PUERTORRICAN @ tokyo2020.” He was not present at the opening ceremony, but still dressed up in his hotel room.
Like Reid, Mexican Gaby Lopez also skipped the Evian championship only to be a flag bearer at the opening ceremony. The very thought of it made her shiver, not to mention what she actually felt when it happened. “It’s a great honor to be here today,” she said after strutting, hopping, and taking endless selfies at Japan’s National Stadium. “I have the feeling that we have the whole country with us. That means that all the effort was worth it. “
The effort is just beginning, Gaby! She has another 13 tests to complete, 13 days of sleep on the recyclable bedding, and approximately 26 90-minute drives to and from Kasumigaseki Country Club. She was out on the driving range on Sunday afternoon and grinned alone, 10 days before her competition. Maybe she will itch when everything comes to an end on August 7th. But she could also have a medal around her neck that is endlessly worth the trouble others tried to avoid.