TOKYO — The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games couldn't happen without the help of volunteers.
It requires a lot of hours and a lot of work. "It's quite the commitment," said T. Christopher Okano.
Okano isn't even expecting to get a paycheck for it all.
"Not to put myself on a pedestal, but..." he said. Even with his mask on when he's doing his job, you can tell he's smiling.
The @Paralympics begin next week in Tokyo. Those Games, and the Olympics, couldn't happen without thousands of volunteers. We met one while in Japan. He went to @BYU and says even though the hours are long, there's nothing like being a part of something this big. @KSL5TV at 6:30. pic.twitter.com/MpYNvGMzjp— Alex Cabrero (@KSL_AlexCabrero) August 20, 2021
Okano is a volunteer for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and he can't believe how lucky he is.
"The Olympics is one of the largest events in the world, so just to see kind of how the inner workings work and how all these different stadiums and athletes and just all these different moving parts they have to make it all work and come together, it's a fascinating and mesmerizing experience," he said.
Okano is Japanese, but he grew up in California and went to BYU in Utah. When he heard Tokyo was looking for volunteers back in 2018, he signed up right away.
"I love the Olympics. I love sports growing up. I also love international communications and coming together," said Okano.
It's that coming together he was hoping Tokyo got to show off with these Games, except COVID-19 ruined that. No fans or international visitors meant empty venues for competitions and an empty stadium for opening and closing ceremonies.
"It really would've been a sight to see if the stadium was packed with all the athletes in the stadium," said Okano.
Many volunteers quit because of COVID-19 concerns, but still, some 80,000 volunteers stayed on and helped with the Olympics, and thousands more, like Okano, will also work the Paralympics.
"Oh, it's a blast," said Okano.
For him, all those hours are worth it.