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Interview

Not normal Olympics, but Japan is 'welcoming naturally': Johnny Weir

Two-time figure skater returns to Japan as NBC reporter with his eccentric outfits

Johnny Weir is also a successful professional skater.

TOKYO -- Johnny Weir, a two-time Olympian representing Team USA in figure skating at the 2006 Turin Games and the 2010 Vancouver Games, has come back to Japan as a star Olympic reporter for U.S. broadcaster NBC.

The startling outfits of Weir and fellow reporter Tara Lipinski, gold medalist at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, are drawing attention.

Weir, who came to Japan with more than 10 suitcases, spoke with Nikkei about Tokyo today and the Olympics amid the pandemic.

Q: What is your impression of Tokyo this time? Do you see any difference from Tokyo before the pandemic?

A: I knew Japan would host a perfect Olympic Games because of the country's incredible hospitality, cleanliness and pride.

Because I have been in a "soft quarantine" period under the guidelines, I am following guidelines set forth by the Japanese government and I am remaining in my hotel room or going to my work location and nowhere else, as I do not want my presence to put anyone in harm's way.

It is a vibrant and glamorous city with a lot of heart. Like every other major city in the world, Tokyo feels quiet right now, but being quiet is correct.

Two-time Olympic figure skater and NBC reporter Johnny Weir poses in a Hello Kitty-themed outfit with fellow reporter Tara Lipinski. (Photo courtesy of taraandjohnny Instagram)

The hotel staff, the volunteers at the International Broadcasting Center and my Japanese fans sending welcome flowers to my hotel have been so wonderful to me.

While the atmosphere may not be a normal Olympic vibe, Tokyo has still made everyone feel that they are at the Games, during the hardest period of modern times, because Japan is so welcoming naturally.

Q: What do you think is the meaning and significance of Tokyo 2020?

A: The Olympic Games bring the world together, they celebrate peace and excellence, and I believe that this Olympic Games will help so many people find the inspiration to keep fighting and to be strong.

This pandemic is far from over, but perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if the Olympic family behaves properly and shows the world that despite it all we can hold an Olympic Games the correct way and follow the rules and cheer each other on, the inspiration value and example value of this Games is priceless.

Q: What are the roles of athletes? How will and should athletes' performance inspire people all over the world?

A: Every athlete has a story. Every athlete is inspiring. Every athlete can inspire a kid just like them. Every athlete comes from somewhere, big or small. Every athlete has obstacles to overcome.

The greatest value I place in athletes is that we are not all sparkles and packaging, we show the world what real hard work and overcoming adversity look like and how thrilling it is when you finally show the world your soul.

Q: As a reporter, what do you want to see in Tokyo, and what specifically are you planning to report on?

A: My job at the Summer Games is to share the culture of the Olympics but also of our host country with the American public.

I have been traveling to Japan every year for nearly 20 years, and I feel very much at home in Japan, so I am able to speak about Japanese culture in a very experienced way.

Olympic figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir say they consult each other and decide on what to wear. The pair's fashion sense is attracting attention. (Photo courtesy of taraandjohnny Instagram)

It is my honor to share my knowledge of Japan with the people of my country because Japan and the Olympic Games have raised me into the entertainer I strive to be.

I know there are mixed feelings about this Games, but I want to thank all Japanese people for allowing the athletes to have this opportunity and for us broadcasters to share it with the people of our countries.

It is an honor for me to be visiting your country at this difficult and terrible time. I want my fans in Japan and anyone reading this article to know that I vow to follow every rule set forth by the government and the rules I set forth for myself.

I am looking forward to completing my soft quarantine period, though, so I can visit my favorite Isetan Shinjuku department store and walk around Omotesando to find gifts for my new nephew at Kiddy Land.

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