Whistle-blowing, flag-waving super-fan Kyoko Ishikawa has attended every Summer Olympics in the past 30 years and the Tokyo resident does not plan on missing out on a Games in her home city.
The 51-year-old cannot wait to welcome the world to Tokyo.
“The Olympics are amazing,” said Ishikawa, who has become a familiar face at Olympic venues with her traditional Japanese outfit and hachimaki, adorned with her country’s red-and-white flag.
“The power of diversity. The energy of diversity. The Olympics are only three weeks, but within that short period you get a concentrated picture of the whole world,” she told reporters.
Ishikawa — who owns an IT company — transforms herself into an exuberant uber-fan every four years.
Her obsession began on a 1992 backpacking trip to Barcelona, Spain, where she bought a cheap ticket to the Olympic opening ceremony and was blown away by the atmosphere.
The next day, she had a chance encounter with Naotoshi Yamada, a fellow Japanese who had attended every Olympics since the 1964 Tokyo Games and who took her under his wing.
Together, Ishikawa and Yamada — known in Japan as the “Olympic Grandad” in his trademark gold top hat — traveled to every Summer Olympics that followed, turning heads and making friends wherever they went.
Yamada died in 2019 aged 92, leaving his dream of watching a second Tokyo Olympics unfulfilled.
“It was such a pity, because the Tokyo Olympics would have been the completion of his life as an Olympic fan,” Ishikawa said.
“Without that, there’s no closure. I want to try to take on his legacy and his spirit. Of course, I can’t be him, so I’ll try to do my best and do it my way. He’s passing the baton, but the role is different,” she said.
Ishikawa said she was excited when Tokyo was awarded the Games, but also knew it would be difficult to get hold of tickets in Japan, where demand was initially sky-high.
She and her family applied for the maximum 60 tickets each in the first lottery with no luck. In the second lottery they got one ticket between them, for wrestling.
Now that 18 percent of tickets sold in Japan are to be refunded after buyers asked for their money back after the COVID-19 postponement of the Games, Ishikawa is confident she can lay her hands on more.
However, she is more concerned about the possibility of the event not taking place at all.
Organizers last month unveiled a raft of virus countermeasures, from banning cheering in stadiums to asking fans to download tracking apps on their phones.
Ishikawa is adamant that the Games should go ahead even if organizers have to reduce the number of fans, or even exclude overseas visitors.
“For Mr Yamada and me, the purpose of attending the Olympic Games was not just cheering ... the main purpose was sharing love and friendship and smiles,” she said. “The value of having it without people from around the world would probably be 50 percent — or even less — but it’s still better than nothing.”
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