As the Australian archery team entered its shoot-off against Chinese Taipei last week, the tension inside Koto City’s Yumenoshima Park was palpable. “What a moment in time,” the announcer exclaimed over the public address system.
But all of the atmosphere came from the sound of Japanese cicadas, occasional licks of electronic dance music and a fake heartbeat pumped in over the speakers. What the archers didn’t hear was fans. The lone cheers from the three empty grandstands came from 10 members of the Chinese Taipei entourage.
In the near-silence, the Australian archers felt right at home. To athletes in lower-profile sports, competing without fans is simply known as competing.
“There’s not too many events I can recall that have ever had a grandstand,” said veteran Australian archer David Barnes. “We’ll put it that way.”
These Olympic Games are being held without spectators, a last-minute decision made by organizers amid a local state of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For some Olympians, that’s nothing like the jam-packed mobs they’re accustomed to. They play in sports where they can earn millions of dollars and feed off the energy from deafening crowds.