At times it looked like we may not get here, but finally – and thankfully – the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games are upon us, and what a start it has been.

We’ve already seen newcomers emerge from obscurity, legends dominate, and golds galore, and we’re only just getting started. While of course, not having fans is both notable and jarring, it hasn’t yet distracted from amazing storylines, incredible achievements, and drama of the highest order, and you can see just how much it means to every single athlete already.

One thing I’m always struck by during the Olympic Games, though, is the sheer scale of the event. 

Played out over just 16 days, 11,656 athletes representing 206 nations – as well as the IOC Refugee Olympic Team – descend upon Tokyo for more than 330 events across 33 sports. 

What’s often forgotten, though, among those impressive numbers and the flurry of activity, medals, and camaraderie throughout the Games, is the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes to make the event tick and – in our case – protect against risk. 

So as the Games continue, we’re taking a look at the myriad world of insuring athletes and National Olympic Committees throughout the Games. 

First off, let’s think about getting there first. 

Of course, every athlete represents their home nation, but not every athlete lives in their home nation, or indeed is required throughout the full fortnight, and so coordinating the travel requirements and needs of countless athletes is a perennial headache for NOCs. 

The core elements of a travel insurance policy are relevant, but this is no standard trip, and each athlete has different requirements meaning a tailored approach is required to provide each nation with the broad coverage they require. For example, some scenarios require a host of kit, equipment, and supplemental material to travel with them. 

Take, for a minute, the modern pentathletes. 

Each athlete will not only travel to Tokyo with themselves, but they’ll also have multiple epees for fencing, pistols for shooting and – remarkably – horses for the show jumping leg of the event. 

Now consider the travel insurance implications of any and all of that kit. Now imagine that for all 11,656 athletes – each with their own unique needs. 

A gargantuan task, and not one taken lightly.

We’re also, this year, facing the very different challenges that COVID now poses to everyday life, including social distancing, vaccination passports and travel exemptions. 

As mentioned, athletes are travelling from all over the world, and quarantine is a very real possibility for many as they arrive and return home. We’ve seen over recent times, and done a range of work on, the impact that bubble life is having on athletes and their mental health, and it becomes an increasingly critical risk that we must insure against. 

Similarly, we need to consider the very real possibility of illness or catastrophic injury to a British – or any foreign – athlete in Tokyo, and the consequent potential costs of treatment, or repatriation. With so many athletes competing international, they’re often prepared, but with some bad crashes already in the velodrome, it’s worth considering all eventualities.  

That said, the life of an Olympic athlete is an unusual one. More so this year, of course, but post-Games is a strange journey that’s unlike most other sports. 

Many athletes, barring the very finest and famous, go into a Games as relatively unknown outside of their respective sport’s niche, but one fateful event can catapult them into overnight stardom, the likes of which other athletes either never experience or are already trained to be ready for.

With this, however, comes a host of risks. 

Immediately, earning potential ramps up. Sponsors, broadcasters, and media outlets will be clamouring for a signature. While footballers might spend their entire youth career preparing for that, Olympians are different, and at times are often unexposed to anything of the like. 

As such, in some sports the potential future earnings are significant and therefore prudent financial planning should take insurance into account when considering the exposure, they’ll now face through a serious injury. Of course, they never want to tempt fate, but it’s critical they consider all potential outcomes.

Similarly, overnight stardom doesn’t just breed commercial benefits. It also places you right in the public eye, and as such within the scope of the mainstream media. While often this can be a good thing, such press and public attention is hard to manage, and reputational risks are a plenty. 

So, as you can see, much like the activity out there in Tokyo, things are never as straight forward as they seem. What is certain, however, is that this Games already promises to be one for the ages, and we at Miller cannot wait to join many of these athletes on their journey through the Games and beyond.

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