Tokyo diary: the heat is truly on – and a basketball-playing robot holds court

Meals on wheels
Spectators aren’t the only thing missing from these Games. Much of the next-generation technology due to be showcased here is too. Toyota had planned to use driverless cars at the Games and had made robots for the new Olympic stadium that, among other things, could take, then bring, food and drinks orders to spectators using wheelchairs.

Panasonic, meanwhile, has created motor-assisted power suits to allow people to carry heavy luggage with ease. None of that has been seen. The one exception is CUE, an incredible AI robot created by Toyota, that makes an appearance at halftime in the basketball, rolling itself into the arena by itself and to the free-throw line and three-point line, before picking up the ball and sending it clean through the basket.

The heat is on
World Athletics earned considerable plaudits when they moved the marathon and race walk from Tokyo to Sapporo in the north of Japan after the 2019 heatwave – sound logic given that Sapparo is usually far cooler. However, the weather gods are trying to thwart them. Yesterday the temperatures in Sapporo were as high as 34C, marginally hotter than Tokyo. Meanwhile, next Friday, when the 50km men’s race walk begins, it is forecast to be 32C. True, that is cooler than Tokyo’s 35C. But not by much.

Vegan void
It hasn’t been easy for vegan journalists in Tokyo, given the 14-day quarantine rules that require them to eat within the Olympic Games bubble, either at an event, a media centre or in their hotels. But those visiting the basketball venue have found only one item listed as vegan – and that is non-alcoholic beer. One British hack told the Observer he is surviving on Paleo bars supplied to him by a press officer on a British team.

Gone sightseeing
Tokyo 2020 has stripped an Olympic participant of their accreditation for leaving the athletes’ village to go sightseeing – the first such case at these Games. “No one must leave the village for the purpose of sightseeing,” said Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya. However, he didn’t reveal the person’s identity.

On a ping and a prayer
The fear gripping the media and athletes in the last week of these Games is that they will get pinged for Covid, then have to spend 14 days in quarantine. Based on the experiences of Athleten Deutschland, who have described the “prison-like conditions” involved, it doesn’t sound pleasant. “In the current quarantine hotel there is an insufficient provision of fresh air,” a statement from the athlete body read. “The food supply is neither rich nor balanced and does not meet the specific nutritional requirements of high-performance athletes.”