Veteran pixman Kamarul Akhir relishes challenge of capturing Olympics through Covid-19 tinted lenses

Kamarul Akhir is used to covering major sporting events overseas, but being on duty during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – his first Olympics – is a new challenge.

Kamarul, who has been a photographer for more than 25 years, said the travel restrictions during the Summer Games means he has to plan his itinerary in advance.

“Unlike the previous major tournaments I have covered, we have to use the official shuttle services or charter a car to bring us around,” said Kamarul.

“This is to minimise our exposure to the public due to Covid-19.

“We also have to inform the organisers in advance of the venues we intend to go to, so that they can ensure that the shuttle buses are not overcrowded.”

Tokyo is under a state of emergency until Aug 22 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Japan recorded 2,329 new Covid-19 cases yesterday.

Kamarul has diligently studied the Olympic Games schedule to map out his activities, and admitted it could be hard going to get the perfect photograph.

For instance, the velodrome is more than 100km away from the transport hub, while golf and sailing are also far from the main press centre.

“Although the schedule for Malaysia is not punishing as we only have 30 athletes, I need to make sure I get on the bus at the right time, or I could miss a good shot,” he said.

He is thankful that instead of daily swab tests, those at the Olympics would take saliva tests.

“It is a real time saver as we just have to spit into a tube instead of having them shove stuff up my nose!” he joked.

“The only difference is, we cannot eat or drink half an hour before the tests.”

Kamarul, who has covered multiple SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and football tournaments around the region, said it felt surreal travelling to Tokyo.

“I have been commissioned by the Olympic Council of Malaysia and the Youth and Sports Ministry to take photographs of the national athletes,” said Kamarul, who was on the same flight as the national divers, badminton players and several other athletes.

“I am close to many athletes, but at the airport and on the plane, I kept my distance.

“Although I tested negative for Covid-19, I did not want to take the chance of being near them. They deserve their space as this Olympics is different.

“The Games would also feel strange as no spectators are allowed in.”

He even requested to change his seat to the back of the plane, away from the athletes, despite everyone being seated alone in each row.

Although apprehensive, Kamarul said he is looking forward to his first Olympics after covering all the other major multi-sporting events.

The Olympics begin on Friday and end on Aug 8.

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