As I was watching the day 5 swimming events, I noticed a particular-looking man dressed in a very flamboyant costume, waving what seemed to be like a dozen Japanese flags, plus one bigger one, with the Olympic rings and the words 笑顔の交流 (egao no kouryuu = “the exchanging of smiles”) on it.
He was cheering on the Japanese athletes with so much enthusiasm that I was compelled to seek him out after the events were over, ask him if it was OK to snap a picture of him, at the very least.
Luckily for me, I had no trouble finding him. After snapping a few shots (with his permission, of course), and a bit of chit chatting, I realized he was there alone, and asked him why he had come. To my astonishment, he replied that ever since the 1964 Summer Olympics, which were held in Tokyo (where he is from), he has travelled to every single Summer Olympics, as well as the Nagano Winter Olympics—he even named them all in order!
A bit of research confirmed that he is referred to as the Olympic ojisan (“Olympic old man”), and according to what I found, he is 86 years old.
How touching that he has continued to travel the world to cheer on his country’s athletes for over 40 years!
I’ll definitely be looking out for him (on TV, or maybe in person–who knows?) at the next Summer Olympics…