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GREG SMITH – Rowing NSW BRO Officiates at Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo 2020 – an Official’s Experience

My work as a rowing official began in NSW in 2000. I always hoped that I might get an opportunity to work at an Olympic Games. I was a spectator at the wonderful Sydney Olympics in that same year.

As an international official with World Rowing since 2010, the chance to take part became a possibility. I needed to meet a few criteria to be eligible for selection and 2020 was the most likely year for me. By the time 2018 came around, I had all the required tasks completed and was successful in being nominated by Rowing Australia and accepted by World Rowing for the rowing jury for Tokyo 2020. Only one official is accepted from Oceania and 2020 was a year when AUS had an official for the jury.

Little did I know how hard the logistics of Tokyo 2020 would be. There is a hint in the fact that the games were held in 2021! Flights were booked, cancelled, booked again and cancelled again before that finally “stuck”. My return flights were cancelled the week before I left and rescheduled to the spare day for rowing.

COVID-19 changed everything, and the 2020 Olympics was postponed to allow the games to be “COVID free”. That didn’t work out either.

I had to seek a travel exemption from the Australian government and supply 2 negative test results to leave Australia. My travel was classified as “in the national interest”. Upon arrival at Haneda airport, I was required to undertake another test and get a negative result before I could leave the airport. My transit from landing to hotel took 3 hours. Others took between 2 and 10 hours! We supplied samples for testing daily and 4 more tests were required in quarantine in Sydney upon return. A total of 20 Covid tests for me.

Copyright: Rowing Australia

The Olympic Games was the focus of the trip and did not disappoint in any way. Officials for the rowing event came from all over the world (all continents) and rowers from 80 nations. My work encompassed almost all aspects of rowing from starting races, umpiring races in zonal and following modes and working with athletes and crews in control commission. Every task involved support from an amazing team of local technical officials and a few from other nations. The team from Japan were one of the genuine highlights of the games. Their work made everything run smoothly and without problems every minute of the day.

My highlights:

  • Umpiring many exciting races. Particularly following both finals of the W4x and the B Final of the WL2x. The W4x FA was the race that saw a number of splashes and the AUS crew crossed the line for the bronze medal. That day’s racing was an historic high for the AUS team.

  • Working with officials from 20 nations and Commission members from10 nations. I had worked with several of them at previous regattas. This is demonstration of the breadth of the sport worldwide.

  • ·Seeing the Sea Forest International Regatta course in Olympic mode with international rowers and being part of the Olympic regatta in Tokyo. Our hosts proved that the wait was worth it.

  • Travelling to an international regatta for the first time in 2 years. This experience was truly unique and had its challenges. My flight to Tokyo was loaded with Olympic officials and competitors from several nations. My return flights had less than 30 passengers!

Copyright: Rowing Australia

Officials now only experience the Olympics once in their career. I regard be given this once in a lifetime experience as both a reward and a privilege. To do so in the era of a COVID pandemic, made it truly unique. To have worked at the only Olympic Games in history to be branded as a different year to that of competition makes a very special one too.

Copyright: Rowing Australia

I would also like to acknowledge the support given by the IOC and AOC and Tokyo 2020 OC in assisting with travel, accommodation, and subsequent quarantine. It was comforting to know that things were being done to assist.

Returning to Australia is always a heartwarming feeling and especially to fly into Sydney, one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. My return to my family was delayed by 14 days in quarantine in the city.

Greg Smith

Rowing Official NSW



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