Technology takes centre stage at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

State-of-the-art technology will play an unprecedented role in the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020. The International Olympic Committee and the local organising committee will utilise technology to revolutionise the delivery of the event and to ensure safety during the global pandemic.

Vending machines will dispense medals during victory ceremonies in order to minimise person-to-person contact, and technological devices will play a key role in almost every Olympic sport.

Road Cycling, Race Walking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon, Marathon Swimming and Marathon running

The world’s most advanced vending machines will operate at feed stations in the endurance events, replacing volunteers or soigneurs. Machines will be pre-programmed with each athlete’s drinks for the entire race, and will read the transponder of every competitor as they pass through the feed zone. What’s more, the AI-equipped vending machine will read the minds of the athletes to determine if they want plain water, energy drinks or electrolytes, and a hand will emerge from the machine to deliver exactly which drink the athlete needs at that moment.

Rock climbing

Robots will operate the belay during the Speed Climbing event in the Sport Climbing competition. Robots will also replace people who normally perform the role of coxswain in the ‘Eights’ rowing.

Mechanical mechanics

Drones will replace mechanics and soigneurs during the road cycling events. Highly-specified drones will hover above the race and descend automatically whenever a rider experiences a mechanical issue or a puncture.

“Our drones can repair any mechanical issue much quicker than even the most skilled human mechanic,” boasted the IOC spokesperson.

Soigneurs also provide massages to cyclists during competitions, and the IOC claims its robots can also provide this service.

“…but we’re not sure how many athletes want to be massaged by a robot.”

Robots will also replace ball kid at the tennis, as well as linespeople and umpires,

“This way, if Novak Djokovic hits a linesperson in the face, it won’t hurt,” explained the spokesperson.

Boxers and martial arts competitors, as well as athletes in Fencing, Tennis and team sports will find their first-round opponents through the vending machines, and swimmers and runners will use a vending machine to find their heat number and lane draw.

3D Printing

3D printers will print sailing boats and horses for use during the games, and these will also be dispensed via the vending machines. Olympic rules stipulate that Equestrian riders and Modern Pentathletes are given a horse and do not bring their own, in order to keep the competition even.

“The most exciting use of vending machines at this year’s games will be at Surfing,” enthused the spokesperson. Surfers will be able to choose the ‘perfect wave’, or the wave which best suits their riding style. If a surfer prefers right handers, they can demand those waves. If they want a barrel, they can order one. It’s just like Kelly Slater’s surf ranch, but in the open ocean.”

Sources close to the IOC believe vending machines may also be employed during post-event interviews with athletes. Instead of talking to a wild throng of voracious journalists, athletes can choose from a list of sporting cliches displayed on a series of sanitised touch screens lining the mixed zone. Popular responses will be displayed in every language and include:

“I’m very happy to win this medal for my country.”

“Words can’t describe how I feel”

“Full credit to the opposition”

“This is a great learning experience for next time.”

“I owe it all to God, Allah, Buddha (or other nominated deity)”

“God Willing, Inshallah…”

“I have to give full credit to my coach/family/teammates/fans”

“It was very tough”

“All of my competitors will be tough to beat in the final”

“I’m just happy to get through to the next round”

Unique twist to medal ceremonies at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games will receive their medals from vending machines in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that specially-designed vending machines will be placed beside the dais at each sporting venue and will dispense the medals before the athletes step onto the podium. The machines replace the IOC officials, politicians and sporting legends who would customarily award the medals.

“Using vending machines to award medals to victorious athletes is yet another world-first strategy the IOC has adopted to conduct a safe and healthy competition for all athletes, officials and other stakeholders at the Tokyo Olympic Games during the current pandemic,” announced an IOC spokesperson.

“The method minimises person-to-person contact as well as acknowledging a long-standing and popular cultural custom of obtaining almost anything from a vending machine in Japan.”

Athletes who finish first, second or third will scan their competition transponder through the vending machine. This will be read, and the appropriate medal will be issued before the athletes step onto the podium. The machines will also dispense the flowers and souvenir that the athletes traditionally receive.

“Tokyo 2020 has embraced technology and this is another practical example of the use of state-of-the-art technology to deliver a world-class event, which will keep athletes safe. Using vending machines also reduces the probability of an elite athlete being exposed to a ‘compromised’ sports official.”

It is also hoped the use of vending machines will eliminate the awkward moments in which medal presenters can’t decide whether it is appropriate to kiss, shake hands, fist bump, hug, bow or do none of the above while awarding a medal.

The IOC and the local organising committee had considered using robots to perform this task, but realised that some robots are so life-like they could catch and transmit COVID-19.

Image: Charles Deluvio

Discounted patriotism.

What motivates people more, savings or patriotism? Are people more driven by love for their country, or the chance to save money?

We were on our way to the KTV centre for an enjoyable few hours of massacring popular songs in Chinese and English, and we decided we could only do so with a substantial supply of snacks. Thus, we detoured via the main shopping strip of central Qingdao to quickly fill our bags with some tasty morsels.

Just days before our singing sojourn, tensions had risen between China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Both countries fiercely claim ownership of the archipelago, and regular statements from either government create controversy and wide-spread media coverage in the two proud nations.

Citizens on both sides of the East China Sea commonly react with patriotic fervour and denounce the opposing nation and their culture in personal conversations and across social media. Some patriotic citizens call for boycotts of the other nation’s stores, products and cultural influences, and this had occurred in the days leading up to our karaoke trip.

Toyota and Honda claimed arsonists had badly damaged their stores in Qingdao, while Panasonic and Canon shut some of their stores in major cities. Japanese citizens throughout the country stayed home in fear of retaliation during large-scale protests, Japanese schools cancelled classes, and some Japanese restaurants were seen covering their storefronts in Chinese flags.

Despite this, we were on our way to karaoke – a famous Japanese export.

In Qingdao, the Japanese store Jusco had been attacked and damage was done to its facade and sections of its interior. The store was forced to close for a few days to carry out repairs and to protect its employees. When the worst of the protests subsided and the store reopened, it still showed the scars of the attack.

As we approached the shopping precinct with empty bags and empty stomachs, we discussed which store we should visit, and based our choice on expediency, products selection and price. We could have ducked into Carrefour, but it was crowded and famously expensive. We could have chosen Chinese stores Da Run Fa or Jia Jia Yuan, which offered much the same stock and price, or we could stock up at Jusco.

As we neared Jusco, we saw many locals streaming in and out of the store with bags full. We were confused, after days of patriotic statements and anti-Japanese sentiment, until one of my local colleagues discovered why the store was full.

“Look, everything’s on sale!”

Without hesitation, my colleagues left their patriotism at the door before rushing into Jusco, collecting some tasty delights and smuggling them into the karaoke bar.