The eyes of the world are centering on Tokyo as the pandemic-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics officially commence on Friday, but one Delaware native will have his eyes locked firmly on Team USA.
Special Agent Timothy Ayres of Wilmington is a member of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service's "Major Events" team in Japan.
"It liaisons with international bodies and U.S. bodies, such as the U.S. Olympic Committee, and we manage and work with host countries and those committees to secure U.S. athletes and ensure the U.S. business community as well while we're overseas."
Ayers said the Diplomatic Security Service is in more of a secondary role, as opposed to some of his other trips to Colombia, Iraq, and Indiana.
"In some of the places like Iraq, it's more of an aggressive protection. In some of the safer countries, say European countries, it's still a very robust security structure, but it's less aggressive. The Olympics is more of an liaison role. The host country is actually in charge of the security, they are the ones with the police officers and the military securing the facilities. In our role, we liaison with the host country and the U.S. assets on the ground."
The former Saint Mark's football player and track athlete said one perk is getting to see the world's best athletes perform on an elite stage.
"We're able to go in and take in the action. We have access passes to get into the venues. The other night I was able to go in and watch the U.S. women's soccer team play against Sweden, unfortunately it ended in a loss, but I'm sure they'll bounce back in their next game."
The stadiums, such as the 50,000-seat Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday night, are quiet.
"I have pictures where the entire stadium is empty except for alternate athletes, security, coaches, medical staff, Japanese security, and some Japanese press. They pumped in music, but I think it more for TV because it wasn't very loud, it was almost like watching a high school practice."
Ayres added that's a similar scene throughout Tokyo, a city he enjoyed a decade ago.
"I came here once before with the Secretary of State protection detail about ten years ago. You can't even compare it. The streets are almost empty, there are no international tourists, whatsoever. Everyone is wearing masks, restaurants are closed at 7 p.m.. It's quiet, for a town of 20 million people, it's quiet."
Ayres played football at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. after graduating from Saint Mark's in 1995, and eventually joined the Marine Corps for seven years.
As Captain Ayres was transitioning to leave the military, he remembered a presentation from the State Department about the Diplomatic Security Service, and successfully applied for a job.
"I was starting a family, and I we were planning to have kids, and going overseas is something I wanted to do with my family. I was able with 2 of my 3 assignments overseas, I was able to go with my family. Going overseas, and really getting involved in a foreign culture is something that really appealed to me."
He's worked his way through the DSS ranks, and said while their Olympic assignment is just getting rolling, they're already focused on major international sporting events coming up over the next few years.
"While we're working here, we're already planning for our Winter Olympics presence, the World Cup, the Women's World Cup, and the Pan-Am Games."
Olympians are often defined by gold, silver, and bronze medals, but Ayers said DSS will measure their Tokyo experience differently.
"A successful Olympics experience for us is absolutely zero security incidents, zero natural disasters, everyone goes home safe, and the U.S. Olympic Team wins the medal count. If you hear nothing from us, that's the most successful outcome."