A good flight from Heathrow to Haneda, which was only around 20% full and was “bowed off” by JAL groundstaff – always an amusing experience.
Initially, it didn’t look like there were any queues for COVID testing, accreditation checks and immigration but then I turned a corner. I had mentally prepared for a 4h “experience” and thought it had been too good to be true. Things actually went fairly smoothly and were quite organized, except in some places social distancing was strictly enforced and in others we were herded together. Slightly surreal given all the notices and people in full PPE. I made it through in 2.5h. I heard people telling of 2h and up to 6h!
Friendly and efficient volunteers met me and put me in a taxi to my hotel. Up early this morning local time (equivalent to sleeping from 3pm to 9pm UK time, had breakfast with a number of people I knew on the Vet Commission who are in the same hotel. Then a 5 min walk to pick up the bus to the venue. Efficient and friendly security guards scanned my kit and I’m in.
It’s changed a bit since 2019 – obviously now with the stands finished (sadly) and everything “logoed up”. Found the TO’s office which I am sharing with Prof Lars Roepstorff from the University of Uppsala in Sweden and Oliver Hoberg who are the FEI surface expert team.
The super-efficient Ari Kudo, Manager for Equestrian Sport Competition Management, had kindly picked up my uniform for me. I was then straight off to the stables to check air quality, temperature and humidity, conditions of which could not have been better. Various meetings followed and then I went down to the FOP (field of play) where they were finalising the dressage setup to watch Lars and Ollie carry out surface testing using their pneumatic drop hammer and surface temperature and moisture meter.
I also watched some of the dressage riders training. Interestingly, most are using the climate-controlled indoor arena which is a good call as they do not have to compete in the hotter part of the day. Now 5pm, the time at which dressage will start, the temperature has cooled down nicely – now only 30°C and cloudy. But with a slight breeze and no strong sun it’s pleasant. Just be nice if I could enjoy a cold beer, but alcohol is banned for the Games ☹
Tomorrow I have an early start to visit Sea Forest Park – the cross-country venue. It looked very different from the plane as I landed at Haneda so I’m looking forward to a close-up inspection.