FROM THE EDITOR — Watching The Games From Afar

LIKE JUST ABOUT EVERY OTHER FAN on the planet, I did my watching of the Tokyo “2020” action at home. The last time I did that, 1968, there was no such thing as computers and my TV set was black & white. I guess that officially makes me old.

Munich, Montréal, LA, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London & Rio. I was there for all of them, delighting in being able to be part of the crack T&FN team bringing our faithful readers the best in by-event dissection of all the Olympic action.

(Yes, Moscow is missing from the list. The Soviets refused to give me a visa in a fit of pique after I had been critical of the USA Juniors trip to Moscow the year before. I even got called a “capitalist running dog” by Sovietskiy Sport. At any rate, with no travel option I instead immersed myself in a HS reunion and didn’t even watch the Games on TV, instead staying semi-current by using another now-almost-dead medium, a newspaper!)

But after 50+ years of in-person enjoyment the world turned upside down. Our pandemic-driven planet ended up with a set of circumstances which found me again being a homebody, much as I hated to have my Olympic streak end. But after too many years of too much travel, the decision to opt out was an easy one. And it was one that with my announcing-booth career winding down I made without much internal debate.

For family reasons I had already skipped the ’15, ’17 and ’19 World Championships meets, but that chapter was past and this was the Olympics! Still, I drew comfort by harkening back to my column of September 2017, titled, “Heretical Thought: Is It More Fun Watching Track On Your Computer?”

My experiences with electronics-driven fandom, fortunately, had come out positively as I immersed myself in multi-screen following of London and Doha. And it became the cornerstone of our need to do electronic-driven journalism for Tokyo, not just fandom.

As it turned out, Associate Editor Jeff Hollobaugh ended up as our only writing boots on the ground in Tokyo. Check out his story, “Plenty Of Hoops For Tokyo Journalists…” for some background on just how much fun that could be. We won’t even get into the months of bureaucratic red tape (at both ends) that led to his being able to come and go.

So the traditional “crack T&FN team” referenced in this column’s second paragraph devolved into a healthy squad of cyber-warriors, aided and abetted by some of our faithful ace photographers. They’re all credited with the stories that make up the bulk of the pages in this issue. Thanks muchly to them all.

And thanks to writers/photographers not only for providing insightful analyses, but also for doing it under unfriendly time parameters. We didn’t quite manage to stay “live” in our homepage postings, but we did turn the whole thing around more quickly than any other major meet before it.

With not only a multi-hour time change between the U.S. and Tokyo, but also dateline considerations it wasn’t easy. Add in a healthy dose of morning (Tokyo time) finals and things got quite hectic at our home base in California.

To watch the evening sessions live required getting up at around 04:00 and watching for a couple of hours. Then around our dinner time it was back in the saddle for a couple of hours of the next day’s morning action in Tokyo. Small wonder there was frequent confusion on just what day it was where.

We can only imagine how hard it was on the athletes, who performed spectacularly well under adverse conditions. And we feel badly for all those track fans everywhere — be they members of T&FN’s planned tour group or not — who saw a dream trip evaporate. We just hope that this Olympic Edition will help increase your from-afar enjoyment of all that happened in Japan.

To close, back to the question of whether or not it’s more fun watching a major meet on-screen, the jury is still out, and each will have their own verdict, but for me, all the bells & whistles that keep getting added to the at-home experience certainly have it as close to a draw at this point.

See you all in Eugene next summer for the World Championships! ◻︎