In this brand-new edition of My Tokyo, we hear from a US-based photographer and a French radio reporter about their experiences and memories of covering the Summer Olympic Games and exploring the city itself.
‘No greater event’
For Patrick Smith, a staff photographer with Getty Images, he was “thrilled” to go on assignment to Tokyo this year - having visited Japan before and fallen in love with the country.
“As a professional sports photographer, there’s no greater event than the Olympics,” he says, as he recalls capturing iconic images of athletes at the Japan National Stadium, in Tokyo.
“Being at the Tokyo 2020 Games, in the National Stadium, covering the athletics, makes your heart beat and it makes the athletes’ hearts beat,” Patrick explains.
“Shooting events like the pole vault, where an athlete is levitating across the air, seeing the iconic views of the stadium, the woodwork at the top, is very historic and something that I’ll never forget.”
An ‘amusement park of real life’
For Patrick, Tokyo is a mesmerising city, which never fails to leave its mark on him.
“Coming back from the stadium every night, from the athletics, you weren’t talking to your colleagues. You were looking out the window,” he says.
“You were seeing the Tokyo Tower, it looks like the Eiffel Tower. It’s the Statue of Liberty, as in New York.”
He likens Tokyo to being “in this amusement park of real life, which is its beauty.”
Patrick explains: “It’s the temples you get to go by. You can get off a train and go to a temple one minute and be in a different part of the city 10 steps later. It’s the history. It’s the new, it’s the old.”
My heart beats ‘in a happy way’
Back home in America, Patrick shares his photo memories from Tokyo with his two young children.
“When I speak about Tokyo to my children, I tell them how safe it is. They’ll be welcomed with open arms, no matter what,” he says. “I tell them that the food is amazing.”
Patrick hopes to take his family to Tokyo to experience all the things he’s enjoyed.
“Returning to Tokyo is something that I hope happens in the near future,” he tells My Tokyo.
“Whether that’s for a major sporting event or returning with my family. It’s just somewhere I know that makes my heart beat in a happy way.”
‘Happy to see us’
For Olivier Pron, a senior sports reporter with Radio France Internationale (RFI) based in Paris, he had never been to Tokyo before. Although he was no stranger to the Olympics, having covered the Games twice before.
“The Japanese were clearly happy to see us,” he tells My Tokyo, as he described the welcome he received at the sporting venues.
Temples of sport
For him, there were two special venues that caught his attention.
“Two temples (of sport), I would remember. The Budokan, because when you come to Japan, you must be interested in judo. It’s the king sport. It’s a place with a particular architecture, that really struck people,” Olivier explains.
“Then… the sumo temple, which is called Kokugikan. That’s where the boxing competitions were held. I was imagining what sumo fights would be like in this place.”
Tokyo’s ‘iconic neighbourhood’
Olivier spent much of his time in Tokyo reporting on all the action from the Olympics. But he did manage to explore some of this vibrant city.
“Obviously, on the last day, we visited Shibuya, because it’s the iconic neighbourhood of Tokyo. We were there to see the multiple pedestrian crossings that are known all over the world,” he recalls.
“And for this tower, that’s located in Shibuya Scramble Square, where there’s the Sky observation deck. It gives you a 360-degree view of Tokyo.”
As for the legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?
“Everything was perfectly organised. And so, that’s the legacy of the Tokyo Games,” says Olivier.
“They have shown that in times of pandemic, you can organise the Games. Maybe other countries wouldn’t have done it, but Tokyo did it.”