Pacific oysters nearly derailed the Olympics

Nearly 14 tons of magaki oysters piled onto buoys in Tokyo Bay’s Sea Forest Waterway prior to the Games.

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Pile of oysters
Naughty, naughty
Photo: XAVIER LEOTY / AFP (Getty Images)

Between the Australian swim coach’s startling victory dance and Simone Biles’ refreshing focus on mental health, the Tokyo Olympics are unusual to say the least. But before the cameras started rolling, another Olympic team gathered for a little party of their own: per the BBC, nearly 14 tons of magaki oysters piled onto buoys in Tokyo Bay’s Sea Forest Waterway, nearly wrecking the Games’ canoeing and rowing events.

The BBC reports that officials installed a series of buoys throughout the bay to protect athletes from crashing waves. But the oysters saw the buoys, thought “wow, nice buoys,” and latched onto the buoys, weighing the buoys down and threatening to sink them. Removing the oysters cost about $1.3 million, a fee that covered a fleet of divers and boats sent to either clean the buoys or drag them onshore for repairs.

Unfortunately, no one got to eat the magaki oysters, which the BBC calls “a hugely popular delicacy” during the winter in Japan. “We did not consider consuming them,” an official told a local newspaper. “That would entail safety checks.” That’s a major bummer: the BBC writes that, while magaki prices vary around the world, these specific oysters “could easily be worth tens of thousands of dollars.”

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One last thing: the Sea Forest Waterway is reportedly the only international standard rowing course in all of Japan. That means it’ll remain a key spot for rowing and canoeing events long after the Olympics have ended, and area officials are going to have to figure out a way to avoid future oyster gatherings. I have a few ideas:

  • Place a large sign underwater that reads “HOT NUDE OYSTERS, TWO MILES DOWN”
  • Place an even larger sign underwater that reads “ONLY WEIRD OYSTERS HANG OUT HERE”
  • Hire a local urchin with a heart of gold to befriend the oysters and lead them out of peril
  • Maybe consult a marine biologist or something

Good luck, Tokyo!