The Rio 2016 Olympic Games closed 12 months ago with a much-anticipated and wildly enjoyable street carnival in the Maracana stadium. It also marked the beginning of the home straight for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Tokyo’s segment during the Closing Ceremony was amazing. Bring on the real thing in three years’ time.
We are confident that we raised expectations for the Tokyo 2020 Games all over the world,” Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya said of the extraordinary eight-minute segment in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony which heralded the true countdown to the next summer Games.
The high-tech, futuristic vision, including images of athletes in action against the Tokyo skyline, robotic dancers on body-controlled scooters and an unforgettable appearance from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, contrasted excitingly with the samba rhythms being pumped out by the Rio residents.
“We hope that our presentation helped to project our Tokyo 2020 Games vision, which is that sport has the power to change the world and our future, in the same way that the Tokyo 1964 Olympic and Paralympic Games greatly changed Japan at the time,” Takaya said. “The Tokyo 2020 Games will strive to be the most innovative in history.”
The Tokyo 2020 Games will strive to be the most innovative in history.Masa Takaya Tokyo 2020 spokesperson
Evidence of this credo appeared recently. The ‘three-years to go’ event in Tokyo in July saw the vast exterior of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Assembly building turned into a mind-blowing 3D art show. Japanese Olympians and Paralympians ended the evening playing against each other in live video games projected on to the building. Although just a bit of fun it does give a taste of what fans can expect in three years’ time.
“We believe that Tokyo has the ability to help athletic events evolve to the next level, including new styles of watching and new forms of support for athletes,” Takaya explained. “Tokyo is a city that can bring innovation and enhanced excitement to the sporting world.”
Tokyo is a city that can bring innovation and enhanced excitement to the sporting world.Masa Takaya Tokyo 2020 spokesperson
Naturally, Takaya and his team remain pretty tight-lipped as to what the Opening Ceremony will bring in 2020. They have got a heavy-hitting team in place. In April of this year an advisory board consisting of 12 experts from across a range of industries gathered. With ideas taken on direct from Olympians, Paralympians and even members of the public, the body are discussing the best ways to represent “Japanese culture, history and the image of Japan projected in other countries”.
One thing is for certain, they have their work cut out to surprise the watching public in quite the same manner as they did in Rio de Janeiro one year ago, when the country’s prime minister popped out of an over-sized green tube on the stage in the Maracana stadium dressed as 1980s video game icon, Super Mario.
The appearance of the wildly popular character ‘in person’ was a great move from the Organising Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (TOCOG) with the watching billions bowled over by the show.
Remarkably, it was all the brainchild of one of Abe’s predecessors. “The starting point of our performance was that Brazil is on the opposite side of the world from Japan, and so President Mori (Yoshiro Mori, Prime Minister of Japan 2000-2001 and now President of TOCOG) came up with the idea of showing a tunnel being bored between the famous ‘Scramble’ pedestrian crossing in Shibuya (Tokyo) all the way through the earth to the Olympic Stadium in Rio, and having Prime Minister Abe make an appearance,” Takaya explained.
“The world-famous Japanese cartoon character Super Mario was chosen as the one who would make his way through the tunnel from Tokyo to Rio,” Takaya added. “And Mori himself asked Prime Minister Abe and he readily agreed.”
The segment started with a video clip of a suited, sombre Abe – a manner in which the Japanese are used to seeing their prime minister – sat in a taxi in traffic in Tokyo apologising to the public that he wasn’t going to make it to Rio in time. The screen then flickered into the unmistakeable form of Super Mario consulting a map, jumping into a drain pipe and drilling down through the earth.
The next thing the world knew, the leader of the 127-million strong Japanese nation appeared through the pipe in Rio clad head-to-toe in blue and red and holding a big red bowling ball.
With three years to go, Tokyo 2020 is working hard to make sure that their Games will deliver the same sense of awe and surprise, as this segment did at the Closing Ceremony of Rio 2016.