Tokyo 2021 Olympics - Support from the Sofa
Arriving bleary eyed downstairs this morning after another ungodly hour alarm call to watch rowing during the night, my husband Peter and I were comparing notes on our Rio Olympic experience versus this one.
Rio was a full-on, super sociable, action packed, in person, emotional rollercoaster of experiences, actually in the same time zone as the racing we were following.....a fabulous, albeit exhausting experience. I wrote a blog (search Olympics on this page) about being a family supporter at the Olympics and the huge range of experiences and emotions that it entailed. Tokyo 2021 is somewhat different! I commented to Peter that there wasn't as much to write a blog about, as we were just at home, but the more we talked it through, the more I realised that there were lots of elements that it might be useful to share with other parents.
Firstly, being in touch with other parents has been a real lifeline. Whether it's a Whatsapp group, meeting up or just individual messages to other parents and family members. Keeping people in the loop, sharing challenges, information, upset, delight and any of the other myriad experiences supporting an Olympic athlete entails, can be so helpful and heart-warming.
Supporting from afar with all the challenges of a different timezone is exhausting! Last night my alarm went at 00:30, having gone to bed at 10:45. We then stayed up until 04:30 to watch all the GB crews compete. Of course you can catch up the next morning and actually maintain a sensible routine of sleep and I definitely think we are going to run out of steam on the live viewing. So plan the ones that you absolutely HAVE to watch live and maybe sleep through the rest.
Try your best to ensure you know how you are going to watch, get the right links, pay for the subscription to the right streaming service before the midnight hours of viewing. It's so frustrating if you have bothered to get up and then you can't actually see what you want. The BBC is limited this year in what it is licensed to show, so you may have to pay to watch it elsewhere. This is understandably frustrating, especially when it doesn't all work, but I think we have to make allowances and be grateful that we have an Olympics at all in these trying times.
And try not to do what we did, which is to eat loads of complete junk through the night and then feel wretched the next morning.....considering how much time I have spent trying to spread the word about good food and nutrition for athletes this is rather ironic. Get the snacks in, but get the fruit and veg in too!
Be mindful of when you contact your athlete and what you say. Get your head around the time zone and make sure you are messaging or calling at sensible times. My husband has installed a Tokyo clock on his phone so we can't make a mistake. Also remember that they are in a performance bubble and they and their coach know what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve. Nothing we say is going to change their result, they just want to hear that we are proud of them and they have our unconditional support, not any advice about the actual competition.
Although it seems the blink of an eye since we were supporting our athletes at small local events and school sports competitions, they are now on a world stage, which comes with the pressure of media interest. The British Olympic Association has a whole team in their press office who can help you out if you are approached by the media. And although you never think it will happen to you, you will invariably be approached when you least expect it. Some parents will be happy and confident to talk to accredited media professionals, others won't. In any situation make sure you see some credentials, and if you are not keen to talk, pass them straight on to the press office at the BOA or your athletes' sport NGB. Equally, there is a vast amount of coverage on social media, some posts wonderfully positive, some not. Try not to get embroiled in any sort of argument on social media, if people are posting negative or provocative comments they are looking for a reaction from people, better to walk away.
And last of all, enjoy it (if you can). These young sports people are in a teeny tiny minority that can call themselves Olympians, and we have the great honour of supporting them as friends and family. We are hugely grateful to all who have worked tirelessly to allow our young people to compete in the most challenging of circumstances, and to enable us to have this unique experience of being sporting parents, friends and families. How lucky are we?