Malaysian UCI certified sports Commissaire, with more than 20 years of experience in BMX and mountain biking, Ronizam Ismail served as a national technical officer (NTO) during the Tokyo Olympic Games, BMX, and MTB events.
To ensure a cycling event is safe and fair, Commissaire plays an important role in overseeing the race, reporting the race, keeping an eye on the time, regulating marshals so they do not affect the race, and the responsibility goes on and on.
As a spectator, you may not pay attention to them. But they are always the backbone of sports. We take you through Ronizam Ismail – Malaysian Commissaire at the Tokyo 2020 Commissaire behind the scenes.
Going to the Olympics is everyone’s dream come true, do you feel the same way?
Olympic is a dream for everyone not only for the athletes but also for the sports officials all around the world. It is a big honor when one is appointed by Tokyo 2020 or UCI as a technical official for both Mountain Biking and BMX Racing in the Olympics. It is rare for a technical official to be appointed for 2 disciplines in the Olympics, I am the lucky one.
What was your preparation upon being selected as the Commissaire for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?
Prior to the Olympic Games, I needed to apply for Mytravel Pass from the immigration online, attaching the appointment letter from Tokyo 2020 together with a supporting letter from Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF). The online application took about 2 weeks.
14 days before departure, we had to monitor our body temperature and minimize contact with others.
96 hours before departure, we had to get our 1st Swab Test (PCR), as required by Tokyo 2020.
72 hours before departure, we had to get our 2nd Swab Test (PCR), as required by Tokyo 2020 and Airline.
Due to the pandemic, what were the SOPs upon arrival in Tokyo?
Upon arrival at Haneda Airport on 22 Jul 2021, we needed to install apps OCHA (like mMySejahtera).
Secondly, we had to get our PCR Test, through Saliva, which result would be released in 1 hour. Only negative results would be released for the next process.
Thirdly, we had to activate the Tokyo 2020 Accreditation card.
And lastly, we had to get our passports stamped at the Japan immigration counter.
The hotel transfer from Marriott Shizunji, Izu to Haneda was 130km, which took about 3 hours 20 minutes. No proper quarantine was needed in Japan but our movement only covered hotel – venue – hotel.
We were not allowed to take public transport or go to any convenience shop. We were only allowed to travel with appointed vehicles.
Could you share with us your Tokyo 2020 diary?
On the second day in Izu (23 Jul 2021), we had to go through the same procedure – Covid Test-Saliva, at the venue for Mountain Biking XCO, track Inspection, and official practice for Men & Women categories.
On 24th July 2021, the agenda included Covid Test-Saliva, official practice for Men & Women categories.
On 25th July 2021, we went through the same routine – Covid Test-Saliva, official practice, and team manager meeting.
On 26th July 2021, we went through the same old same old – Covid Test-Saliva. The event on that day was the Mountain Bike XCO Men, 7 laps + 1 start lap.
On 27th July 2021, it was Covid Test-Saliva again, and also a race day – Mountain Bike XCO Women, 5 laps + 1 start lap. The rain persisted from night until 11 am and made the course change due to safety. It was supposed to be 6 laps for women but cut 1 lap, so the women raced only 5 laps.
On 27th July 2021, we departed from Izu at 7 pm to Tokyo for BMX Racing. The journey took about 2 hours 30 minutes.
On 28th July 2021, we had the same routine – Covid Test-Saliva, official practice, and team manager meeting.
On 29th July 2021, it was Covid Test-Saliva and race day – Quarter-Final Men & Women.
On 30th July 2021, it was Covid Test-Saliva and race day – Semi-Final & Final Men & Women.
On 31st July 2021, we had a PCR Swab Test before departure.
On the last day (1st Aug 2021), I returned home. Upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Swab Test had to be done, following by compulsory quarantine for 14 days, with another Swab Test on day 10.
Since it is an Olympic amid a pandemic, what are the new norms or additional SOPs being adhered during the Games?
Due to the pandemic and lockdown since March 2020, there is no race in Malaysia. The last race was BMX World Cup Round 4 & 5 in Australia, February 2020. It was a challenge for me to prepare for the Olympics as we needed consistent events throughout the year to build self-confidence and gain more knowledge.
Olympic is the ultimate event for the athletes, therefore the technical officials have to ensure well preparations to deliver safe and fair races. To achieve that, I started watching races on YouTube, asking questions to my senior who had experience at the Olympics before.
Due to the pandemic, there surely were new norms. Before departure, I needed to do 2 swab tests, 96 hours and 72 hours before arrival in Japan, which was required by Japan Government for the Olympics. Upon arrival at the airport, I needed to do a Covid test – Saliva, wait for about an hour before getting the result. Covid test – Saliva has to be done every day in the morning during my stay in Japan. Last but not least, 72 hours before departure to KL, another Swab Test had to be done.
During the Olympics, all foreign athletes and officials were not allowed to go sightseeing or shopping. We were not allowed to take public transport, all movements were monitored. We were only allowed to take the official transports arranged by Tokyo 2020. Our movement included only hotel/Athlete village – venue – hotel/Athlete village.
Our meals were served in packs, with no buffet line. During the Victory Ceremony, athletes needed to take their medals from the tray. there was no contact between the podium winners & VIP 4.
What challenges did you face during the Games?
For outdoor events, weather plays an important role. For both BMX racing and MTB, we faced the same situation. On the first day of the race, we had good weather but on the second day of the race, there were typhoons and thunderstorms.
During the MTB (women) event, we had to do some changes in the course because of the weather. The rain had affected the surface from dry to wet and slippery. Some section was forced to close due to safety reason and we opened a new line for them. We had to also adjust the race distance from 6 laps to 5 laps because we anticipated the time for 1 lap to increase due to the current condition.
On the second day for the BMX racing, semifinal and final, a thunderstorm hit Tokyo and we delayed the race for 45 minutes. The decision to delay for 45 minutes after getting advised by the weather forecast team that the thunderstorm was about to come and it would be dangerous for everybody.
We could not simply delay our event because the Olympics was being broadcasted all around the world, except for a situation like this. We had to have several discussions before a discussion was made.
There are a lot of different roles that a Commissaire can fill, could you talk us through what you normally do in a BMX freestyle, BMX racing as well as mountain biking race?
The Commissaire Panel is a team of commissaire for the events, led by the President of the Commissaire Panel (PCP) and the panel.
For MTB, various jobs need to be done by the Commissaire panel, such as course inspection and supervision with the medic team, marshal team, media, and team managers. During the race, some of the commissaires will be assigned at the course, Feed & Technical Zone, 80% zone, and finish line. For BMX racing, there would be the same organization but with different colleagues, only myself from MTB worked for BMX.
In general, we had to wake up as early as 5.00 am daily, went to the venue at 6.45 am until about 6.00 pm. We usually spent about 10 hours at the venue every day. Lunch packs and refreshments were provided by the organizer.
You played a part in both BMX and MTB races, from Izu Mountain Bike Course to Ariake Urban Sports Park, how did you ensure all the events run smoothly, and keep the athletes safe and fair? What were the procedures?
During the MTB race, I was assigned to handle the Grid Line before the race, I needed to ensure riders line up at the start line according to world ranking. When the race started, my position was at 80% zone. Work at 80% was to pull out the slowest rider in the course. The time calculation was pulling out the rider who was 80% slower than the leading rider.
For BMX racing, I was assigned as no. 4, which was my position at corner number 2. My task was to ensure any infringement done by the riders and ensure that the media & photographers at corner 2 were proper in their position. BMX racing is very fast, so every decision must be made very fast and accurately. Before the race, we needed to do a track inspection to ensure the track was safe, and coordinate with the medic team and TV production team.
You have served as a Commissaire in many BMX and MTB events, locally and internationally, what were the different and special encounters you had at the Olympic Games?
I have been in World Championships, World Cup, and other international races. Olympic is very special to me and everyone. Not everyone has this chance as it is once in 4 years and maybe this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. Tokyo 2020 is different because of the pandemic, the experience is totally different.