I eventually did get to see some of the IAAF events. Finbarr of Tennoji got us some ¥5000 general seating tickets for Friday, August 31st . If that sounds like a lot for bleacher seats, it is: all evening tickets were far too expensive. As a result, apart from during the opening and closing ceremonies (and in the mornings, when local schools sent classes – not for free, I’ll bet), the yawning World Cup stadium in Nagai was nowhere near half-full, IAAF propaganda about “packed” Nagai Stadium notwithstanding.
Security was tight-ish. We had bought eats and packed thermos bottles (which were permitted, but not cans or pet bottles). Staff looked in, but not through, my bag: the bomb-like thermos was under a towel and went unnoticed. Finbarr, however, who kept his flask in plain sight, was asked (read told) to open it and drink from it. Somehow I didn’t feel more secure after that.
There followed a fairly long walk past the cordons to the stadium, and – after bad directions from some flustered staff who apparently hadn’t been told to expect foreigners at an international track meet – a walk around 2/3 of the stadium once we got inside. Eventually, we came to a friendly usher, who told us to turn right, go up the stairs and “sit anywhere”. We took him literally and, turning the corner and walking up ten steps, promptly sat in some empty ¥11,000 seats. It was about 6:45PM, so many of the high-end ticket-holders were still en route to the stadium or (this being Japan) still at work. For about forty minutes we got to enjoy the decathlon high jumps at close range until two cross-looking women turned up and told us we were in their seats. “Really? Oh! Sorry!” we chirped with well-rehearsed sincerity and ducked into some seats a few rows up. This continued for another hour or so, until we reached the ¥8000 seats, which were nowhere near sold out and, as it turned out , gave us a better vantage point for events like the 400m relay and 100m hurdles. We never did get as high as the ¥5000 seats, so I can safely say we got our money’s worth. Or somebody’s.
I hadn’t been to a track meet since college, so it was a real eye-opener when the athletes – both men and women – went barreling around that track. For all my griping about the organization of the event (and as an Osaka taxpayer, I have every bloody right), it was still a competition between the fastest people in the world. Television shows it all to you in close-up, but follows the race and distorts perspective. When you’re sitting there and see with your own eyes ten humans coming round a corner at that speed, you half expect Wile E. Coyote to be chasing them. Likewise a man jumping 215cm over a bar – you really have to be there.
Well, it’s all over now. For all the expense, the only remarks I’ve heard this week – on TV and among students – were of the IAAF president’s turning up with three wives (he’s Senegalese) and about ten children, and expecting the royal treatment for every one of them.