Tokyo 2021 Olympics: for athletes, Olympics without joy

The word “together” may have been added recently to the famous Olympic motto “Faster, higher, stronger”, the Olympic Games which open this Friday July 23 in Tokyo will leave no room for communion, to the effervescence and the usual moments of jubilation. Deprived of their loved ones, their fan club and the cheers of the public, the athletes will experience an unprecedented Olympiad, in a flammable pandemic context.

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“The most difficult thing is not living these Games all together, not having our loved ones, but we made it up to ourselves, and we focus on performance”, exhibits Laura Tremble, a 22-year-old aeronautics student, who participates with her twin Charlotte in her first Olympic Games on the free duet event in artistic swimming.

“We are hermits”

Before taking off for Tokyo early next week, she immersed herself in a “Sanitary bubble” similar to the one that awaits him in the Japanese capital: “We alternate between the apartment and the swimming pool. We don’t meet anyone, we don’t see our friends, we don’t go to a restaurant… we are hermits ”laughs the Insep swimmer on the phone.

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Competitors can only arrive at the Olympic Village five days before the start of their competition, and are requested to leave the venue no later than 48 hours after. Express stay under high surveillance. No right to go anywhere other than training and competition venues, location monitoring for possible contact tracing, Covid-19 test every day, meals two meters from each other, ban on taking public transport…

“When you drink alcohol, you are asked to drink alone” in your room, even prosaically warned Takashi Kitajima, the general manager of the village. “We trust the athletes, their last desire is to catch the virus. But trust does not exclude control. And sanctions up to and including exclusion are possible ”, warns a source close to the organization. The tone is set.

The icing on the cake, the Japanese government finally announced, in early July, that there would be no spectators in the venues of the Games, the Japanese capital being once again under a state of health emergency. The Olympic stadium, like others, will therefore ring hollow.

Do without “this hubbub that takes you to the heart”

The big change will be in the adrenaline », Notes Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, holder of the French record for the 110m hurdles. “When you are in the call room, he describes, silence reigns. Then you enter the stadium and there is this hubbub that takes you to the heart. You start to shake, you feel the competition in your veins. “ How to do without? ” You have to generate your own stress, find motivation by yourselfe ”, prescribed the hurdler before entering competition, on August 3.

There is always something unpredictable at the Olympics, but the proportion is even higher this year, continues Jean Fournier, president of the French Society of Sports Psychology (SFPS).Sometimes an athlete only experiences one edition of the Games, so many run the risk of lacking benchmarks. You have to be able to organize your thoughts and emotions to know how to respond to an unexpected situation, such as the fact that your trainer catches the virus. “

Support the athletes

Anticipate, to better face adversity. “The important thing is to know precisely what will happen, because it is the unexpected that creates brutality”, confirms psychologist Meriem Salmi. “And very high level athletes know that a detail can upset the whole balance”, adds the one that follows several champions, including judoka Teddy Riner. In Tokyo, she is part of the French delegation for “Accompany the athletes in this high place of emotional turbulence”.

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The specificities of these Games were “Prepared in advance”, she assures, believing that it is necessary to be on a “Reality principle” to accept the situation: to deal with the Covid and allow a “Smooth running of the Games”, security measures are essential. “And there’s one thing athletes can’t stand: it’s injustice. There, everyone is housed in the same boat “, she concludes.

Focus on the competition

For several months, the support teams have been scrambling to make the athletes’ task easier, faced with logistical constraints and endless administrative documents. “It’s quite heavy and it adds complexity, but we must ensure that they have the spirit of sport and not of administration”, underlines Michel Plateau, the national technical director of the French surfing federation.

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, him, is serene: “It doesn’t matter how many PDFs to fill out, which apps to download, empty stadium, and the whole Covid environment. My job is the 110m hurdles. These Games remain a competition like any other. “ Their outfit will still have taken the obstacle course.


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