Can’t go to Tokyo for Olympics? Experience Japanese culture in the US
International fans can’t travel to Japan for the Olympic Games, but here are some tips to experience a little bit of Japanese culture in the states.
Michelle Hanks and Harrison Hill, USA TODAY
When athletes from around the globe walk into Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 23, there won’t be any fans there to greet them.
International fans were barred from the games in March, but the decision to not allow any spectators at the games was made July 8 following an announcement that Tokyo was re-entering a state of emergency due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The millions of spectators that typically flock to the Olympic games to attend one of the highest-profile sporting events in the world will instead add on to the billions who watch the games on TV.
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If you’re wanting to embrace the Olympic spirit, though – and not spend the whole two-week period glued to your couch – there are other games-adjacent trips and activities you can plan.
Here are some ways you can get into the Team USA spirit without being in Tokyo:
Visit the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum
If you’re interested in learning about the history of the Olympics and Paralympics – which are set for Aug. 24 through Sept. 5 in Tokyo – plan a trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to visit the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum.
The museum opened in July 2020, but waited to celebrate with a grand opening until July 2021. A variety of events to celebrate the new museum and the start of the Olympic games will occur weekly through Labor Day, including Olympian meet-and-greets. Some of the autograph sessions already on the museum’s calendar include American actress and judoka Hillary Wolf-Saba, three-time Olympic swimmer Susan Rapp, and Olympic wrestling bronze medalist J’Den Cox.
From July 29 to August 1, the USOPM will also host its Tokyo Games Fan Fest, a free event on the museum plaza for visitors to enjoy live entertainment, food and drink and watch the Olympics on a 50-foot screen.
Can’t make it to any of the special events? The museum itself is still worth the trip, with 12 exhibits and galleries including Athlete Training, which features interactive sport demonstrations of key skills needed to succeed in Olympic sports, an exhibit on the geo- and sociopolitical history of the games entitled The World Watches, and the Medal Collection gallery courtesy of the Crawford Family U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Archives.
The museum is open seven days a week, and tickets range from $14.95 to $24.95. For more information, visit the USOPM website.
Travel to former U.S. Olympic host cities
The United States has hosted the Olympic Games eight times over the event’s 125-year-long modern history, the most of any country. Both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics have been held in the U.S. four times in locations from coast to coast.
All eight host cities still have relics of their Olympic history to visit that would make for good day, weekend or week-long trips.
In Los Angeles, where the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics took place, a lot of the Olympic venues are familiar places. The L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Rose Bowl Stadium, The Forum and Dodger Stadium were all used as competition sites for various sports. Olympic fans could also choose to visit places like the Hollywood Bowl, where John Williams debuted his “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” UCLA’s campus, which served as the Olympic Village in 1984 or the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles.
Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, which hosted the 1996 Olympics, features The Fountain of Rings and the city’s Olympic rings statue. The Olympic Cauldron is on display further south in Savannah, Georgia, at Riverfront Plaza, where the yachting events at the games were held.
St. Louis was the first U.S. city to host the Olympics in 1904. Forest Park, where diving, swimming and water polo took place, is still a popular tourist spot today.
Winter Olympic venues might not be quite the same during the summer, but Lake Placid, New York (1932 and 1980), Squaw Valley, California (1960) and Salt Lake City, Utah (2002) also all offer tourist attractions and opportunities to experience pieces of Olympics past.
Participate in Tokyo 2020 Initiatives
In an effort to keep fans around the globe engaged during the games despite not being able to attend, the Tokyo Organizing Committee has prepared two initiatives.
Fans can share messages of support for athletes of any country through the Tokyo 2020 “Share the Passion” project. Video and text messages shared on social media with designated hashtags have the chance to be shared on the big screen at competition venues.
There’s also official music for the Olympics – “2020beat.” As part of the games’ “Make the Beat” campaign, fans can submit videos of them performing the simple clapping rhythm or remix the beat into their own song according to certain guidelines.
Host an Olympics watch party
Some regular attendees of the games might be missing the camaraderie that comes with watching live. The at-home solution? Host a watch party.
There are several online guides available with ideas on how to make a party gold-medal worthy, including recipes for Olympic-themed decorations, snacks and drinks. A watch party could also be as simple as inviting a few friends over to watch your favorite Olympic events.
The key will be knowing what time events will air in the U.S. because of the 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and the East Coast. NBC has a full schedule available online with TV listings starting July 20. USA TODAY Sports will be providing daily “what to watch” guides … so stay tuned!
Contact Emily Leiker at [email protected] or on Twitter @emleiker