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Drawn to the flame: Travelling to Tokyo for the 2021 Olympics


You know the way journey can convey out the quirks and curious passions of some folks, like the traveller who follows the footsteps of Jane Austen or the devotee who visits James Bond filming areas throughout London?

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a kind of travellers, and with me it’s all about Olympic cities. The glory of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games lit a flame in me, and I’ve been on a quest ever since to go to the Olympic parks and venues of earlier host cities.



That quest has taken me by Olympic venues in Munich, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Los Angeles, Athens, Melbourne and Sydney. Whenever I’ve deliberate a journey itinerary to these cities, I’ve allowed at the least half a day to discover their Olympic parks, to enjoy the nice historical past that occurred.

John Burfitt, at Berlin Olympic Stadium, is an Olympic trivia buff. Picture: John Burfitt

John Burfitt, at Berlin Olympic Stadium, is an Olympic trivia buff. Picture: John Burfitt

It’s commonplace for me to ebook a tour of the Olympic stadium at the identical time as I’m selecting which lodge to keep in. Before setting out to discover every park, I’ve achieved the analysis to know who the nice opponents had been, who took gold and who didn’t, what historical past was performed out, and what the opening and shutting ceremonies are greatest remembered for. It’s additionally about the structure and the way every metropolis selected to categorical itself by the myriad designs of their varied venues.

A bit obsessive? You guess. And I is usually a little impatient to get exploring, like on my 2019 go to to Tokyo. Only hours after arriving in the metropolis, I used to be heading throughout city to the Japan Olympics Museum and to go searching the new Japan National Stadium, which is internet hosting this 12 months’s occasion and was constructed on the web site of the one which hosted the 1964 Olympics.

He often books Olympic stadium tours at the same time he books his hotel. Picture: John Burfitt

He typically books Olympic stadium excursions at the identical time he books his lodge. Picture: John Burfitt

I did the identical factor the 12 months earlier than on my first day in Berlin once I wasted no time hopping on a practice to the Olympiastadion for a stadium tour, which supplied an avalanche of fascinating historical past about the grand spectacle and Nazi dramas of the 1936 Olympics.

In Athens, I made a day of it, visiting the 2004 Olympic Stadium in the morning after which the Panathenaic Stadium, the venue of the 1884 Games, in the afternoon.

Every single expertise of exploring every of those Olympic parks has paid off with lasting recollections. The thrill is in the mixture of being the place historical past was made, the place greatness was achieved and seeing the legacy every video games left behind.

Coming from an Olympic city creates an instant bond when visiting others. Picture: David Madison/Getty Images

Coming from an Olympic metropolis creates an instantaneous bond when visiting others. Picture: David Madison/Getty Images

I believe all this goes again 20 years whereas on a bus journey round Germany, and I had a free afternoon in Munich. With the glories of the Sydney 2000 Olympics nonetheless very a lot in thoughts, having completed a matter of months beforehand, I made a decision to discover the Olympic Park web site of the Munich 1972 Games.

Upon arriving, I acquired swept up in the pleasure of seeing the fantastic thing about the glass-roofed stadium, the imposing swimming complicated and the parklands. I additionally skilled a flood of Olympic recollections, like being a bit boy watching on TV as swimmer Shane Gould took gold, and the horror of the slaughter of the Israeli staff hostages.

Shane Gould on the podium at Munich, West Germany, in 1972. Picture: Tony Triolo/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Shane Gould on the podium at Munich, West Germany, in 1972. Picture: Tony Triolo/Walt Disney Television through Getty Images

It was once I went to pay for entry to the stadium that I first skilled what I’ve since referred to as “the Olympic city connection”. The cashier requested the place I used to be from and once I replied Sydney, she excitedly exclaimed, “You’re also from an Olympic city – come straight in!” and waved me by with out paying. I’ve had that very same expertise a couple of instances since when visiting different Olympic parks.

So in the coming weeks, as the world faces the most irregular Olympic Games ever, I will probably be ferociously dedicated to the TV display for the good, the dangerous and the historic. It can even be preparation for my subsequent go to to Tokyo, once I’m certain to, but once more, go searching round the Olympic venues.

The Tokyo Olympics is going to be an event like none other. Picture: Charly Triballeau via AFP

The Tokyo Olympics goes to be an occasion like none different. Picture: Charly Triballeau through AFP

All the controversy over Tokyo has, nevertheless, sparked a brand new fascination with placing Montreal excessive on my journey record to discover the place the chaotic 1976 Olympics unfolded that nearly bankrupted the Canadian metropolis.

But that’s one other story, one I’m certain to fortunately share intimately with anybody shut by as I embark on my subsequent Olympics escapade. Any takers?

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