Olympics addict who spent $40,000 on tickets left on the sidelines

By: AFP      Published: 06:38 PM, 23 Jul, 2021
Olympics addict who spent $40,000 on tickets left on the sidelines

Kazunori Takishima spent $40,000 on tickets for the Tokyo 2020 Games, but strict virus rules banning spectators left him watching the opening ceremony outside the Olympic Stadium on his phone.

As fireworks exploded above the stadium and crowds outside cheered and applauded, Takishima was on the verge of tears.

"I'm relieved that the opening ceremony is being held. I'm so glad," he said, his voice breaking. 

"There are so many people who love the Olympics."

The Japanese businessman has been to every summer and winter Games in the past 15 years, and had hoped to break the world record for seeing the greatest number of ticketed Olympic events in a lifetime.

With the Games finally in his home country, he snapped up 197 tickets for himself and others.

But then organisers made the decision to bar fans from almost all Olympic events because of coronavirus risks, and Takishima decided to watch the opening ceremony from outside the gates of the 68,000-seat stadium instead.

He said he froze when he heard the Games would largely take place without spectators and even now "still can't accept it is real."

"There's a part of me that still thinks maybe I can go inside venues somehow," the 45-year-old said.

Takishima will get his money back but feels there's no compensation for losing the chance to cheer on Japanese athletes competing on home turf.

He had planned to give tickets to employees at his businesses who hadn't been to Olympics elsewhere.

"The Tokyo Games would have been an opportunity for me to show how great the Olympics is," he said.

"I can say all the words, but this emotion cannot be fully conveyed. You have to go there and see it for yourself."

So, so sad

Takishima's interest in sports came relatively late, after he attended a figure-skating competition in Japan in 2005 and found himself amazed by the power and grace of the skaters.

His first Olympics was the Turin Winter Games in 2006, where strangers in the stands congratulated him after Japanese skater Shizuka Arakawa scooped a gold.

From then on he was hooked, and travelled the globe to attend every Olympics that followed.

He had planned to be at 28 events this summer, for a lifetime total of 134 sessions -- breaking the record of 128 held by another super-fan.

The attraction, in part, is the inspiration that Olympic athletes provide, he said.

"I face great obstacles in my work. At those times, I say to myself, 'this is no big deal compared to the tears shed by that athlete.'" 

"I wanted my family, friends and my staff to experience that."

Takishima said he was angry with organisers and the government for failing to find a way to let spectators into venues safely, especially given the vast crowds of commuters crossing Tokyo every day.

"I have always been the person being welcomed by residents of other host cities. Now, it was going to be my turn to welcome them... This is so, so sad, it's more than I can bear."

As the ceremony unfolded in the nearly empty stadium in front of him, Takishima watched on his smartphone.

"Can you see it? All these empty seats," he said to a friend.

"So many people are here. They wanted to be inside the stadium, where they would have been safer. It's very sad."