Remembering Tokyo 1964

Japanese team march during the Parade of Nations at the 1964 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

On this day 55 years ago, all eyes were on Tokyo as it welcomed the world to the city during the Opening Ceremony for the 1964 Olympic Games.

It was the first time that the Games have been staged in an Asian city and helped showcase modern Japan to the world.

5,133 athletes from 93 nations and regions gathered in Tokyo and demonstrated their exceptional abilities across 163 Olympic events in 20 sports. Judo and volleyball, which made their first appearance at an Olympic Games while women’s pentathlon was also added to the athletics schedule.

History in the making

The 1964 Games was historic as Tokyo became the first Asian city to host an Olympics with the Games itself not only having a profound impact on the sporting landscape of Japan but multiple aspects of life.

While the Opening Ceremony was an exciting affair with fireworks, balloons and Japanese culture on display, one of the most memorable moments came when torchbearer Yoshinori Sakai climbed the stairs to light the Olympic Cauldron.

Sakai lighting the Olympic Cauldron

Sakai was born in the city of Miyoshi, on the same day the atom bomb exploded over Hiroshima, which was just 60km north of his hometown. However, the talented runner, who went on to win gold at the 1966 Asian Games would never participate in an Olympic Games.

It was a successful Games for Japan with among the biggest wins for Japan was the women’s volleyball team historic gold medal where they won in straight sets over the formidable USSR side while freestyle wrestler Osamu Watanabe clinched gold to cap off a remarkable career which saw him undefeated in competition.

Meanwhile, Takehide Nakatani also created history by becoming the first ever gold medallist in Olympic Games in judo.

For those who watched the Games, they will remember marathoner Abebe Bikila backing up his Olympic gold from Rome 1960 while American Billy Mills, who wasn’t fancied as a runner, won the USA’s first and only gold in the 10,000m at an Olympic Games.

More history to be made in Tokyo

More history to be made in Tokyo

The Tokyo 1964 Games completely transformed Japan and with less than 300 days until the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the country is set for another history and transformative making Games.

Tokyo will host the Summer Olympic Games for the second time, making them the first Asian city to do so.

However, since 1964, participation from athletes and nations has grown significantly with over 11,000 athletes from 206 nations expected to descend on Tokyo next summer.

Athletes will compete across 339 events in 33 sports with four new sports being added to the Olympic programme including karate, sports climbing, skateboarding and surfing while baseball/softball make its long awaited return to the Olympic stage after a 12-year absence.

The Games will also be the most gendered balanced in history with 49 per cent of athletes competing being female.

While fans attending the Games next year won’t have to go far to find memories from 1964 with five venues being reused for Tokyo 2020 including Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Nippon Budokan, Equestrian Park, Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and Enoshima Yacht Harbor.

Nippon Budokan will once again host events during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Tokyo will also offer a unique welcome to athletes, coaches, families and fans coming to the city for the Games called omotenashi, which can be defined as Japanese hospitality. Omotenashi is unlike anything visitors would’ve experienced before with Japanese citizen treating guest with open arms.

Tokyo 2020 want to promote future changes throughout the world and leave a positive legacy for future generations.