Thoughts on welcoming the world from an Olympics employee

Sachiyo Sato is working at the Tokyo Olympics (Photo provided)

By Madalyn Howitt

Behind every great Olympics are hardworking staff, ensuring the Games come together, and — despite all its irregularities — this year’s edition in Tokyo is no different.

Sachiyo Sato, who is a high school English teacher in Tokyo, is part of the team crucial to the Games’ operation.

Over the weekend, during time she had away from the busy Olympic schedule, Sato spoke to the Sports Pages about her involvement with the Games, how they’ve gone and how they’ve been perceived in Japan so far.

Sato applied to work at the Olympics when she was looking for a part-time job during what otherwise would be her summer break. In her role, Sato’s main duties involve guiding people at the entrance of the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, but already during the Games she’s been pulled away to work other jobs, including working the media entrance. So far, she’s enjoying being involved, given that she’s been a fan of the Olympics for her entire life.

“I liked watching Olympics as a child – it’s one of the reasons I wanted to study English,” Sato said. “When Tokyo was chosen as the host city, I was watching TV and was so excited.”

Despite her own enthusiasm, Sato said she understands why so many Japanese people are boycotting the Games.

“I was very afraid of this virus at first and I thought, if possible, they should postpone it one more year,” she said. “But, the government decided to hold (them) this year.”

Throughout the pandemic, Sato’s been used to working in-person. Many employees working in jobs, like teaching, that in Canada may have been done remotely over this past year, haven’t had the option to work from home, Sato explained.

“Many people [in Japan] have had to work for more than a year under the risky situation, especially at school,” Sato said. “Because parents want kids to study at school, most schools don’t use online lessons, (and) we taught students in person. We had to go to the office even when the virus was widespread. Only employees of big companies could work from home.”

Currently, only about one third of Japan’s population has received at least one COVID vaccine dose.

However, Sato says the Games and its staff have been diligent with the precautions they’ve taken against COVID.

“Everyone has to have a health check every morning through an app called OCHA. It’s specially made for everyone involved with the Olympics, including volunteers,” Sato explained.

Still, Sato admitted the decision not to allow spectators at the Olympics is a curious one, given that it’s inconsistent with how Japan has been holding many public events.

“Baseball games and other sports have been held with spectators this year,” she said. “Why is it that only the Olympics can’t have spectators? We would do all the [same] preventions and support the Games.”

While she loves watching all Olympic events, Sato said she was most excited to watch Japan’s Naomi Osaka compete in women’s tennis. (Osaka was eliminated from singles play after Sato spoke to the Sports Pages.)

Sato also hopes that the English lessons she taught her students this year about hospitality and how to welcome people from abroad will eventually come in handy in the future, if not during these Olympics.

“My students enjoyed the lessons. We will not have a chance to use them because they don’t expect any spectators, but we may welcome some foreign media or athletes, maybe at Paralympics. My students are very interested to welcome people!”

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.

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