Yukoners to watch Olympics on TV, after scrapping Tokyo plans

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Yukoners Derek Yap and Sharon Shorty, seen here renewing their wedding vows on a flight last year, had been planning their trip to the Tokyo Games since 2019. (Submitted by Sharon Shorty - image credit)
Yukoners Derek Yap and Sharon Shorty, seen here renewing their wedding vows on a flight last year, had been planning their trip to the Tokyo Games since 2019. (Submitted by Sharon Shorty - image credit)

Sharon Shorty and Derek Yap were all set — Shorty had pins to trade, Yap was keen to see some old friends in Japan, and they were both more than ready to cheer on Canada's athletes.

But spectators are now banned from the Tokyo Olympics, and so the Whitehorse couple threw their travel plans — almost two years in the making — out the window.

"I was like, really mad!" Shorty said with a laugh. "But then I was like, well, it's the circumstances. I mean, obviously, if they could, they would. There's nothing that they could do."

Japanese officials decided in March not to allow international spectators to attend the Games, and this week they extended that ban to even local spectators. It comes after the Japanese government put the capital under a COVID-19 state of emergency because of rising new infections and the highly contagious delta variant.

The empty stands will make for some "really eerie" viewing on TV, Yap says.

Shorty and Yap had been planning their trip to Tokyo since 2019, but the dream goes back to 2010 when Shorty participated in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver as part of a cultural contingent from Yukon. She had a great time, and ever since then had wanted to attend another Games, but this time with no duties to fulfil.

"I said I would just love to go and just enjoy and just show up as a spectator and just watch a sport, and see the mascots and see the merchandise and just do whatever. Go to cultural houses, Canada House."

Yap had also lived in Japan for a while, years ago, and he always loved going back to see old friends and enjoy the food and culture. He had managed to secure some all-day tickets for softball and tennis at the Games.

"I had a pretty good feeling that we should see Canadian teams and Canadian athletes in those sports. So I was really excited to do that," he said.

Whitehorse Olympian Jeane Lassen, who competed as a weightlifter in the 2008 Games, said athletes can sometimes "feed off" the energy of an audience — but it's not a necessary ingredient to excel.

She recalls how unexpectedly quiet the spectators were at the Beijing Games when she was there. She found herself thinking more about a recent event back home in Canada, with lots of fans and supporters cheering her on.

Paul Chiasson/CP
Paul Chiasson/CP

"So that will probably be exactly what those athletes will be doing, thinking of all the people holding them up back home," Lassen said.

"I mean, this has been a very strange year-and-a-half of training for these athletes, so they've had to rely on their own internal motivation for quite a long time now."

Lassen said Olympians will likely just be glad the Games are going ahead at all.

Shorty and Yap are too, more or less. Shorty joked she would refuse to watch any of the events on TV, but then thought better of it.

"We totally understand that everything was up in the air these days," she said.

"In the end, I'm just going, like, yes — I'm going to be watching."

Find more Tokyo 2020 coverage online at CBC Sports.

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