Athletes get familiar with Olympic matchplay arena in Tokyo

Tokyo 2020 finals matchplay

The archery competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are set to start on 23 July, just before the opening ceremony – but two days prior to this, athletes have their first opportunity to step into the arena.

Each of them gets 30 minutes to see the field, shoot in it, get a feel for the environment, sun and wind conditions, and simply imagine how it will feel when they return to face their opponents for real over the upcoming days.

There’s something different about familiarisation at these Games.

There are five targets at the business end of the range so that many archers can shoot at the same time – and each archer has two sessions out there, one in the morning, under the sunlight, and one in the evening, with the artificial stadium lights switched on.

That’s because some of the competition in Tokyo runs until the sun sets at dusk, which comes quite early in Japan.

But Atanu Das says the effect of the different environments on the athletes is minimal.

“I enjoyed it. A lot of atmosphere, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I feel there is so many distractions but archers have to be focused, you know, on the target.”

The archery arena at Tokyo 2020 is big. It’s going to be the first modern Games to be hosted without public crowds due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s impossible to ignore the huge stands, which will remain largely empty.

“The field is impressive. It’s really big, everything is really big and with a lot of seats for spectators but, unfortunately, it will not be full,” says first-time Olympian Thomas Chirault of France. “There were five targets today but tomorrow it will only be two and it will be more impressive like that. It’s very emotional.”

Despite the absence of spectators in the venue, there’s still an atmosphere – and it’s down to one thing.

“The Olympic rings in the front and behind the target make things more real, we’re here, it’s the Olympics and it’s our moment,” added Chirault.

It’s an opinion that Great Britain’s Bryony Pitman, also debuting at the Games, could relate to.

“Obviously, this is my first Games, so it’s bigger than anything else I’ve shot in terms of a finals field. They've done a really good job. It's a shame there are no spectators because the stands are really awesome, but I think the atmosphere is going to be great,” she said.

“There’s still that feeling of is the Olympic Games, you want to do your best and there’s still going to be media.”

Both Pitman and Chirault are in Tokyo with full teams, meaning they don’t have to wait until the middle of the competition week to enter the arena for their individual matches. They’ve also got a chance to do better than a single medal.

Two-time Olympian Marcus D’Almeida, who’s joined by Ane Marcelle dos Santos from Brazil, will shoot in the first-ever mixed team event at the Games.

Coming from a home Olympics in 2016 at which the public was firmly behind him and his teammates, he sees a stark contrast between the temporary stadium build in Yumenoshima Park and the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro, an existing parade structure that was altered to accommodate this sport.

“It’s a very beautiful finals arena. I felt good and happy, and I tried to think about the future, how I could shoot and what to do,” he explained. 

“It’s different from Rio because just having public back there, I think makes a difference. The set-up here might feel a bit more protected from the wind, too. It’s like a ‘U’, but it doesn’t mean there will be no wind, or it will be easy.”

Familiarisation is the first taste of the venue. The real stuff starts soon.

The archery competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Games begin with qualifying on 23 July 2021.