Some of the world’s greatest athletes hang a left at the life-size anime robot in their race for Olympic gold.

With the Tokyo Olympics taking place under pandemic conditions, non-press spectators have been barred from the stadiums and arenas where events are taking place. It’s a slightly different story with outdoor events that run through public spaces, though. So during the cycling portion of the triathlon, the athletes were riding by in sight of some of Tokyo’s citizens…and also under the watchful gaze of one of Japan’s most famous robots.

The triathlon presents a unique logistical challenge for Olympics planners, since you need both a large body of water for the swimming portion and abundance of paved roads for the cycling and running portions. So for the Tokyo Games, organizers decided on the city’s Odaiba district. A manmade island in Tokyo Bay, Odaiba has plenty of shoreline, but as one of the city’s newer neighborhoods is far less congested than other water-adjacent parts of Tokyo. However, by far Odaiba’s most attractive feature, in the eyes of anime fans anyway, is that it’s home to a gigantic, life-size statue of anime mecha Gundam.

Specifically, that’s the 19.7-meter (64.6-foot) tall RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, hero mech from the Gundam Unicorn arc of the franchise. Well, technically, it’s not a robot, but a “mobile suit,” to use Gundam’s in-anime terminology, which the announcer for Japanese public broadcaster NHK’s Olympic coverage properly did when he told viewers “The athletes are now riding past, with the mobile suit looking down upon them.”

▼ The Gundam statue is located just a few blocks south from where the triathlon’s swimming portion took place, at the southwest extreme of the cycling course.

Just like in the anime, the Unicorn Gundam statue has a cool trick that it can pull of in which its head unit/face transforms. During the ride-by, the mobile suit was in its single-horn “Unicorn Mode” configuration, so any of the riders wanting to see its “Destroy Mode” would have had to circle back after the competition was over.

With Japanese pop culture having risen so much in worldwide popularity since 1998, the last time the Olympics were held in Japan in Nagano, and especially since their last time in Tokyo in 1964, many in the country had been looking forward to seeing international travelers enjoying modern, fun aspects of Japanese culture during their time in Japan. While borders still closed to international tourism due to the pandemic that unfortunately hasn’t been possible, but with a presence as big as Gundam, at least those watching the Games on TV in their home countries can still get a glimpse of the cool things that’ll be waiting for them when travel to Japan finally does reopen.

Source: Twitter via Jin
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