The Olympics That (Almost) Were!
July 23 to September 5, 2021
The Archdiocese had been preparing for it for some years already. In fact, a Special Committee was formed for the purpose. The original idea was “so that each parish may be able to address the spiritual needs of the many people who would come to Japan for this international event.” (Letter of Archbishop Kikuchi dated July 12, 2021). Some 195,000 athletes were expected to come, not counting their support staff, local and foreign spectators. Several thousands of specially made rosaries were ordered by the Archdiocese as souvenirs to those who would come, to show “omotenashi” (Japanese hospitality).
Then came the pandemic. It stretched to more than a year and a half. Tokyo Olympics 2020 were moved to 2021! Since then, the government has declared three States of Emergency in Tokyo and these reverberated in the Church. Strict protocols and on-line registration for Masses were imposed, live streaming of Sunday Masses was encouraged. And just two weeks before the Opening of the Olympics, the number of corona virus cases rocketed. The public was split about holding or not holding the Olympics. Parishioners were ambivalent about receiving visitors. They were worried about the possibility of corona virus infections and its emerging variants. The 4th State of Emergency was imposed, and the Tokyo Archdiocese cancelled all plans related to the Olympics and Paralympics, firm to its commitment that “we will not be infected, nor will we allow others to be infected.”
We wondered what if, despite the announcements, some from the Olympic Village or other foreign visitors come and we find them already in our doors? What shall we do? How do we receive them? These were some of the questions of the Parish Council during their July meeting. Likewise, in the John de Britto English Center. Obviously, the latter was concerned as it the “international service arm” of the Parish. An Ad-Hoc Committee Meeting was called by the Team of Coordinators of the English Center to brainstorm such a possibility. Where do we place them? Who will receive them? How? “But they will be placed in a ‘bubble!’ not allowed to leave their area!” came an update from one youth Olympic Volunteer. “Besides, there might be no spectators at all.” “It is better to have some contingencies rather than none at all!” said the coordinators, feeling responsible.
In the few remaining days before the Opening, the Parish Council and the English Center started collaborating with one another. The English website prominently posted the ADVISORIES both of the Archbishop of Tokyo and our Pastor, Fr Hanafusa. The Parish Council posted enlarged printed copies in prominent places such as at the main gate and entrance door of the church. The English Center had extra staff manning its telephone line in case there would be inquiries. Registration forms for walk-ins were made. Translators were on call. St Joseph Hall, St Mary’s Chapel, and Xavier Chapel were readied, including facility for live streaming so that visitors would not be mixed in with the regular parishioners attending the Sunday Masses. In every Mass, an additional Intercessory Prayer was inserted, “for an orderly, peaceful. and safe Summer Olympics.” For all these to function, we had to look for additional volunteers!
Did the Olympic visitors come? Two came, aboard a special taxi with the name of their country emblazoned with the Olympics logo. They stayed only a few minutes after dropping by the Xavier Chapel and taking pictures outside. They preferred not to write their names. Some reportedly came on weekdays, wearing Olympic jackets and shirts. There were no telephone inquiries related to the Olympics throughout the period. How many viewed live streaming of the Mass? We do not know. But there was a remarkable increase in the number of hits on the English website.
August 15, Sunday. Alarmed with the soaring statistics of infected individuals, deaths, overwhelmed hospitals with lack of beds and personnel, etc. as reported everyday by the authorities, another directive was issued by Archbishop Kikuchi. Everything was suspended again. The doors of the St Ignatius Church were again closed to the public and all church activities cancelled. This time, Fr Hanafusa cancelled all AD HOC activities related to the Para-Olympics, which began August 24. We are in the “Fifth Wave.”
by Sr. Flor Florece, F.I.