DES MOINES, Iowa — As excitement builds for unprecedented Olympic games in Tokyo, Americans will have to watch from afar as Japan has banned foreign fans.
“Being there it’s easy to understand why you’d be apprehensive having people come from around the world to your country and not knowing what the restrictions are going to be,” said Christine Lundgreen-Williams. She and her husband Beau are exceptions to the rule because they live and teach at an American school in Tokyo.
“One of the Olympic torches was on campus because one of the families ran with it for a while. The kids were really excited,” said Christine, who teaches middle school math.
Both are originally from southwest Iowa. The two have been teaching in Japan for five years and have been in the middle of watching the country’s residents’ jubilation for hosting. Christine said, “The people that really want it they really see this as being positive for Japan’s economy and a great way for them to be on a world stage and to open the world’s eyes to Japan and Tokyo.”
Now it has become much of the nation’s worry that another surge of COVID-19 will arrive. “Other people on the other side are worried about the society as a whole which is something kind of contradicts here a lot of times. Not so much personal gain but what’s best for society,” said Beau.
In May, a survey of residents showed over 80% were against holding the games as planned. “We don’t have the health care infrastructure to be prepared for all these tourists to come in and need that healthcare as well,” Christine said.
Japan’s vaccination rates lag behind America and currently, around 7% of citizens are fully vaccinated. Beau said, “They wanted to do trials of their own people first so that slowed things down. We thought the only way we could get vaccinated was to come here.”
Despite venues limited to 50% capacity and a max of 10,000 fans a fortunate number of Americans will still have a unique opportunity to pridefully support the red white and blue. Christine said, “There won’t be as many people that get to see it. There won’t be as many people there cheering for teams other than the Japan national team so it adds a layer of excitement.”
Beau and Christine will have both doses of the Pfizer vaccine before they head back to Japan in August to cheer on Team USA in the Paralympic games.