Dana Mladin

When the Olympics had an audience…

I watched with an immense curiosity the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. A whole year of waiting and the fact that I had the privilege to get to see pieces from an Olympics – the London 2012 Olympics – aroused my curiosity, it created such an impatience in me as if I was going to compete J.

I had such a lump in my throat when I saw the ceremony in Tokyo without an audience! What was missing was that vibe generated by thousands of spectators, the noise, the hustle and bustle, the waves made by people and even the cheers were missing.

If I hadn’t been to London for the Opening, maybe I wouldn’t have known how it could have been here, in Tokyo, in times without COVID…


I arrived at the stadium by subway, more precisely with the crowd of people on the subway. You couldn’t possibly miss the destination, because the wave was taking you…

I don’t know what this neighborhood is normally like, but now it was full of people! A chaotic circulation, a mixture of people of all nations, police, athletes, delegations, volunteers who were there to guide you, to inform you and even to entertain you.

It was a noise hard to describe, but it didn’t bother me at all. It was a certain… something that put you in the spirit of the Olympic Games, made you feel part of them, made you feel good, in a good mood. You were there! At the Olympics!!!

My journalistic reflexes made me take pictures of anyone who got in my way. Friendly without exception, we were all as if part of a big party.

On the way to the access gates, I couldn’t help but let out the patriot inside me, so I asked a foreign man, also part of the audience, to help me with a quick photo session J.

I arrived very early. Because I was afraid. “What if the subway is too crowded? What if I don’t know how to get from the subway to the park? What if I can’t find the gate where I should show up? What if there are infernal queues?” …these and other “ifs” made me take a large margin of time.

Of course, everything was organized by the book, so that you could understand at every step where you were supposed to go. And, if you didn’t understand, the “guides” scattered everywhere would come to help you.

After the first access filters, in the area with all the food booths, like a monkey I went after the people who came with me and I sat in line to buy something to eat. I thought that, after so many hours in the stadium, my belly would start making noises and I will be ruining the whole show and the Queen would kick me out of England.

I ate fish&chips next to some South Americans who, like me, ate such fast food delicacies…


Once I got into the arena area, I identified the toilets, precious in such cases, then I went to the area where I had a seat.

There were very few people, for now. You could find more at fast food and at the toilets…

But I was mega-excited! This gave me time to notice everything around me. And believe me, I got excited like a child in a toy store!!!

In front of my eyes, the work of many people was still going on, I could see the machines, the fabulous scenery, the dozens of cameramen, hundreds of ushers and the audience that was coming, slowly, to take their places.

Do not imagine that, if you have a ticket to the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, you sit in your seat and wait quietly for the show to start. No way, man, you have to work! J))

Some young animators, placed in each sector of the arena, drew our attention to the fact that we will be trained! What?!

Yes, seriously. Each audience area had an animator. The animator had kind of a magic wand. I thought he would be turning us into princes and princesses, but no, we were just funny frogs, trained by him to move our hands in a certain way. Or to wave them. Or to shake our palms.

He also asked us to take the palette of lights that each had on his or her chair and made us move it according to a rhythm and in the directions imposed by him. You should have seen us all swinging left-right, left-right, left-right.

I didn’t quite understand how and when what we were repeating conscientiously would happen, but I would find out soon.

After the “training” I put the flag on my shoulders, proud to be there. And I waited excitedly for the Olympics Opening Ceremony to begin! The stadium was full!


After the ringing of  the bell, I had the revelation that, before discovering the sports performance, I discovered, with professional envy, the artistic performance!

I don’t know, I haven’t read anything written by the critics of the Olympics, if they really exist. I was on the stadium and saw a fabulous show, both in the spotlight and, especially, behind the stage.

the coolest tribune on the stadium – with the Queen and the Prince in the center

Being a declared fan of the musicals, I had the feeling that I see a musical 100 time bigger! Armies of perfectly synchronized people, performing with enthusiasm, whether they were main or secondary artists, special extras or hundreds of volunteers.

By the way, what impressed me the most was that the loudest applause were for the volunteers on the stadium!

And here comes our moment, of the audience-special extras. Bang, the animator from before – the one with the training – appeared in front of us and, at a sign, made us dance the light palettes. And we obeyed, what do you know? Move to the left, move to the right, come on, more lively hihi.

God, how beautiful it looked on the stadium what we were doing!!! The effect was sensational!

Then there was the revealing moment, which solved my dilemma from “training”: some huge, transparent balls began to jump over our heads. Only then did I realize why we had done the pushing exercises…

At another moment, a huge canvas came over us, also brought from behind by the public. And we applied what we had learned before. And here’s how we simulated the waves, sending the canvas lower and lower, to the first row, where it was immediately gathered by some young people.

Then came another moment with the light palettes. Then…

…we all took out our umbrellas, because it suddenly started to rain J.

On TV, the grandiose show certainly had an advantage: as a viewer, you could see the main moment, wherever it took place. On the stadium, man, I had to look in all directions, not guessing where the main action was moving. It was impossible not to be distracted by what was happening “behind the scenes” of the big picture. For you could see the whole army that provided the wheels of every artistic mechanism, you saw the scenery coming in and going out, people getting ready, not just the moment itself.

If you weren’t focused on the red thread of the show, you risked losing the elements of surprise – and they were a lot, really.

I saw the Queen being “parachuted” on the stadium, I discovered Mr. Bean in the great orchestra that played live, I was a few steps away from Paul McCartney, I felt the Olympic flame in my cheeks…

I watched everything with big eyes! And, when I heard the astonishing reactions of tens of thousands of spectators to everything that happened in the show, I got goose-bumps, brother! As a person in the audience, you were simply overwhelmed!

I waited for the Romanian delegation with a huge emotion!

When the Romanian athletes passed in front of the tribune, I had a feeling that I had forgotten: the pride of being Romanian! They were “ours”, they were the ones who had come for the battle, after years of training!

With the passage of the delegation, I remembered my shame that I had felt a few days ago: I had no idea about many Romanian Olympians and about their performances.

When I started reading about the history of the Olympics, I discovered how many gold medals we got (I mean, they got) and how many of us climbed on the podium (I mean they climbed) and how many of them we did not know (I mean I did not know)…

I put on sackcloth and ashes…

Especially since, being part of the London Olympics, I felt… more Romanian. And I owe that to them!

(What Hollywood celebrities I saw at the Closing Ceremony and what interesting things I found about the Olympics, from the beginning, you can read soon).

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