Kept out of venues, superfan brings Games home
July 23 2021 11:57 PM
Olympic super-fan Kyoko Ishikawa, who has attended every Summer Olympics in the past 30 years, expre
Olympic super-fan Kyoko Ishikawa, who has attended every Summer Olympics in the past 30 years, expresses her gratitude as Blue Impulse, Japan’s Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) aerobatic team, performs a display to form the Olympic rings in the skies over Tokyo yesterday. (AFP)

AFP/ Tokyo

A Tokyo Olympics spectator ban means superfan Kyoko Ishikawa is missing her first Summer Games since 1992 — so instead she’s turned her home into a flag-waving, whistle-blowing virtual stadium. The 51-year-old businesswoman is determined not to let coronavirus spoil the fun as the Games land in her home city, despite organisers banning fans from most events.
She’s putting on her signature high-energy performance, cheering and chanting in a traditional Japanese outfit, as she watches on TV in the comfort of her home. And she’s not alone as she leaps around her living room, which is decorated with memorabilia picked up on her globe-trotting Olympic adventures.
She is connecting with fans around the world on live conference calls and social media, convinced the Games can bring people together even during a pandemic. “The Olympics is a special occasion, and in any special occasion in your life, you get people together,” she said. “It’s the same this time. Whatever the method, that fundamental principle doesn’t change.”
Ishikawa watched yesterday’s opening ceremony from her flag-laden living room, chatting with fellow fans online throughout. Her American husband John — wearing a stars-and-stripes shirt and cowboy hat — popped open a bottle of champagne and laid out a buffet of food from around the world.
“Once you see it, you forget all the negative things that happened in the past two years,” said Ishikawa. Public opinion has been against the Tokyo Games for months, but on the eve of the opening ceremony thousands in Tokyo turned out to watch the Blue Impulse air display team fly over the city. And Ishikawa was there to help whip up the crowd with her fan and whistle, posing for photos with passers-by and putting on an impromptu cheering display.
Her Olympic obsession began on a 1992 backpacking trip to Barcelona, where she managed to buy a ticket to the opening ceremony and was blown away by the atmosphere. But her hopes of watching the Tokyo Games were dashed when organisers announced that practically all events would take place behind closed doors because of virus fears.Ishikawa had a ticket to watch wrestling and was hoping to pick up more as the Games drew closer.
She won’t be able to do that now, but she sees the fan ban as an opportunity for a new experience. “If you’re travelling between venues, three events is the maximum you can watch in a day, but on TV, you can watch 10 or 15 events in one day, easily,” she said.  
“That gives us more opportunities to find out about unfamiliar sports, and watch more countries that you don’t know. I want to know more about the world through this unusual Olympic Games,” she added.
Games organisers planned to let up to 10,000 fans into venues until a surge in virus cases prompted a rethink. But they would have been subject to strict anti-virus rules inside venues, with mask-wearing mandatory and cheering and high-fiving prohibited. Now Ishikawa can let rip to her heart’s content as she watches the Games in her living room.
Still, she admits having “a mixture” of feelings as she contemplates a first Olympics watched outside live venues in almost 30 years.
“On the one hand, yes, I still want to watch in person,” she said. “But on the other, I’m so glad we can still have the Olympic Games in a safe way. The most important thing is safety and security of life for everyone in the world.”

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