I am heading to Tokyo on Monday to review the new Olympic motto: Faster, Higher, Stronger, Greedier.
I am flying around the world to visit a country that does not want us there, to work in a city experiencing a COVID-19 shutdown, for an event that will make the richest people at the IOC and NBC richer.
My emotions aren't mixed — they're segregated.
The whole thing promises to be a terrible idea poorly executed, and I can't wait to get there.
Even under the best of circumstances, the Olympics can be strange, and by the best of circumstances I mean when the Games are in Vancouver or London, places where you stay in a decent hotel and the natives are not wishing you stayed home.
Covering American sports is like going to your neighborhood grocery store. Covering the Olympics is like foraging. You might find delicious berries. You might find poisonous berries. You might run into strangers and exacerbate a global pandemic.
To be clear, the athletes are always spectacular, the stories are always compelling and I'm glad we're going. It is always good to have covered the Olympics. It's just not always good to be covering the Olympics.
My first Olympic experience was in Turin, where I learned that the Italians manufacture buses that can execute a hairpin turn on the Alps while the rear portion of the bus — where novices like me chose to sit — swings out over a 2-mile drop.
I learned that the good people of Turin, Italy, thought of the Olympics as an ideal methodology for creating interminable traffic jams. We stayed in damp, leaky "dormitories" with communal showers that were probably part of a prison until the prisoners rioted over the damp, leaky rooms.
Watching Lindsey Vonn execute a controlled fall down the side of the Alps and watching European hockey fans wear funny hats into quaint arenas made it all worthwhile.
In Beijing, we shared nice apartments but spent almost all of our time inside the Berlin, I mean, Beijing Wall. To get decent food you had to leave the barbed-wired security zone, so we didn't go out much. The one time photographer Carlos Gonzalez and I made it to a nice restaurant, we ordered by pointing at menu items and received plates of what looked like animated linguine. With eyes. That blinked.
Vancouver is a spectacular city and an ideal host for the Winter Games. London was a blast because of the ease of getting around and communication and the historic value of the venues.
Rio de Janeiro was fascinating. We stayed in dorm rooms that felt like they had been spackled together with Elmer's Glue and pigeon dung, but the beach, the weather, the athletes, the food and drink and sights made you want to return, even if the favela hung over the city like original sin.
The athletes and competitions will always be compelling. The IOC is always corrupt and greedy. The variables are the host cities, and whether they take pride in the Games, or consider them a nuisance or a cash grab.
The Japanese people don't want visitors right now, and their concern is reflected in what our peers have told us about the arrival process. We have been told that some journalists arriving early had to stand in line for nine hours to get through testing protocols and customs.
What's strange is that the Tokyo Games are banning fans and scrutinizing vaccinated journalists but allowing unvaccinated athletes in.
I hate to pick on any Olympic athletes, because they step into the spotlight so rarely, but if you don't care enough about Team USA to get vaccinated, you should be traveling to Tuscaloosa, not Tokyo.
Rachel and I have been told we will need to fill out a 14-day activity planner, that our movements will be tracked by GPS, that we will need to quarantine for a few days, then undergo daily testing.
All of which would be fine, if the IOC and the Tokyo Games knew what they were doing, and weren't staging a diversion to assure the Japanese people that they care about their health.
If the IOC cared about their health, they wouldn't allow unvaccinated athletes to fly in.
If the IOC really cared about their health, they wouldn't be conducting the Games in Tokyo during a pandemic.
So please wish us good luck, and the Japanese people good health, and let's hope we can all get through this together. But apart. But maybe together. But probably mostly apart.