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Ocha, Cocoa: Meeting Tokyo Olympics Covid protocols not for the fainthearted

Kenyan volleyball team players at Ariake Arena, Tokyo, Japan. July 25, 2021.[Reuters]

Covid-19 might have affected how people do things, but little did I know it was going to be so tough at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Signs started to manifest a few days before I was scheduled to fly out to Japan with my colleagues from the Standard Group.

Through a series of communications on email, the National Olympic Committee-Kenya (NOC) informed me of what I needed before I could travel to Japan for the Olympics.

Apart from the emails, NOC also followed up with phone calls.

For a start, I needed to send them my flight details, indicating the day of my expected arrival in Japan and day of departure. I also needed to furnish them with my accommodation details, never mind that by then I had not even started thinking about where I was going to stay in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Olympics organisers had sent a list of hotels that visitors could book. However, this did not make it any easier. Some of these hotels are charging up to $480 (Sh52,000) a night.

The travel and accommodation details were however not the main issues that the Japanese government were really particular about. There were certain apps that we had to download the moment we landed at Narita Airport.

One of the apps is Ocha while the other is Cocoa. Both apps are meant to help in fighting the spread of Covid-19, and Cocoa app counts the number of days we are in Japan.

Ocha and Cocoa are meant to help in fighting the spread of Covid-19. [Courtesy]

The Cocoa app is also able to inform you if you have been near a person who has tested positive, as anyone is able to update their apps once they test positive for Covid.

The real hustle was on the day of travel on July 22. First, at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, we were informed that we needed to have our Covid test results written in Japanese, never mind that they had to be negative. Also, one would only be cleared fit to travel after taking the Covid test twice and both results were negative.

The Etihad Airways manager at JKIA, Mercy Mutegi, had to communicate with her counterpart at Narita Airport and after some back and forth, she allowed us to check in with our English-written results, but only after signing our Covid test certificates.

A waiter checks the thermometer and disinfectant dispenser at the entrance of Kamukura noodle restaurant in Shinjuku station, in Tokyo, Japan, July 26, 2021. [Reuters]

On arrival at Narita Airport at 4pm on July 23, after spending over five hours at Abu Dhabi, the Etihad Airways manager at the airport was waiting for us at the door of the plane from where he took us to the quarantine manager where another process awaited. It did not matter that we had been flying for nine hours 40 minutes non-stop and were exhausted.

It is at the Narita Airport where they had to be sure about our Covid test certificates, and, more importantly, ensure that our Ocha and Cocoa apps were working. We also had to submit a questionnaire on the Cocoa app that had all details of our flight, including the plane seat number and hotel address.

After all this, we were required to take another Covid test and get a certificate stamped negative, which must be shown to the immigration officer before one is allowed entry into Japan.

Security staff stand guard at the entrance of the Athletes Village,Tokyo, Japan July 17, 2021. [Reuters]

And there is a warning that you cannot use public transport and public eating places. You are not allowed to interact with the locals until you finish 14 days and all this time, you undergo daily Covid tests depending on the nature of your interaction with the sportsmen and women.

Back at the games venue, it is another headache. Despite being fully accredited to cover the games, you are still required to book the venue for any discipline and wait for approval.

If you go to a venue without approval, you will be turned back. It makes it even tougher when you have to explain to the stewards that you have an approval email, but you are unable to communicate as they speak very little English.

Once inside the event venue, you still need to go through various checkpoints and one of them includes getting a green card that allows you to the mixed zone.

Fireworks light up the sky during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. [Reuters]

At the mixed zone, the athletes are kept metres apart from journalists and you have to ask questions while you are all masked up, with the recorders put on a tray next to the interviewee.

Malkia Strikers Captain Mercy Moim was shocked at the distance we were from them as they spoke to us after their loss to Japan in the opening match.

All this is in an effort to fight Covid-19. We are clearly living in strange times and this is not your usual Olympics.

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