A Look Back: The 1964 Tokyo Olympics

  • Five years prior to the games, much of the sporting world’s attention is focused in Japan for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But did you know that this won’t be the first time Tokyo hosted the Olympics?

    Around half a century back, Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics – the first ever to be hosted by an Asian city. In this article let us take a look back at this momentous sporting event that revealed not only the remarkable capabilities of Japan, but the incredible post-war resilience of Japanese society.

    The Bid
    Japanese delegates’ joyful moments following the successful Olympic bid


    On May 26, 1959 at the 55th Session of the International Committee in Munich, Tokyo’s bid for the 1964 Olympics trumped three other bids from the cities of Detroit, Vienna, and Brussels. It is noteworthy that the election results from this session show that votes in favor of Tokyo’s bid is greater than the sum of all the votes for all the other three cities.

    The Games
    The 1964 Tokyo Olympics Emblem


    The Tokyo Olympics was officially called The Games of the XVIII Olympiad. In Japanese it is translated as 第十八回オリンピック競技大会 (Dai Juuhachikai Orinpikku Kyougi Taikai). The games opened on October 10 and ended on October 24, 1964. More than 5000 athletes participated, representing 93 countries and territories.

    1964 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony


    An Olympic Medal from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

    USA and the Soviet Union topped the final medal tally with Gold: 36/ Silver: 26/ Bronze: 28 and Gold: 30/Silver: 31/Bronze: 35 respectively. Japan landed on the third spot with Gold: 16/Silver: 5/Bronze: 8.

    Sakai Yoshinori
    19 year-old Sakai Yoshinori running towards the Olympic cauldron

    One particularly interesting personality during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was the torchbearer Sakai Yoshinori.

    Sakai was born on August 6, 1945 in Miyosho, Hiroshima – concurrent with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Despite not being an Olympian himself, Sakai was chosen as the torchbearer to symbolize the peace and resilience in Japan after the Second World War.

    The Venues
    The Yoyogi National Stadium in 1964


    The events during the 1964 Games were conducted in 33 different sporting venues, most of which were built or reconstructed specifically for the Olympics.

    The Nippon Budokan was the venue for Judo in th 1964 Olympics


    Some of these venues have become significant landmarks of Tokyo.

    Good-to-know facts
    The inauguration of the Tokaido Shinkansen – in time for the Olympics


    – the 1964 Tokyo Olympics is the first ever Olympic Games in an Asian country.
    – the Olympics were scheduled on October to avoid the intense summer heat and typhoons in Japan.
    – the Tokaido shinkansen was launched a few days before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

    Memorable Moments

    – Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first person to win the Olympics marathon on two consecutive Olympic games. He won the Tokyo marathon after a very recent surgery – talk about hardcore!

    -Volleyball and Judo are added as Olympic sports events. Japan’s team grabbed the first gold on the women’s volleyball event.

    -The 1964 Tokyo Olympics is part of what is being commemorated in Japan annually with the History of Health and Sports Day (体育の日 – Taiku no Hi).

    -Watch the clip above for other interesting facts:

    Another look back: 1940 Tokyo Olympics???
    This may have been the 1940 Tokyo Olympics’ Emblem.


    The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was a success, but did you know that Tokyo should have hosted the Olympics in 1940?

    Tokyo won the bid in 1932 against three rival cities, but its hosting has been forfeited due to the outbreak of the wars Japan was involved in.

    Relive the memories

    Read more about the 1964 Tokyo Olympics through the official Olympic Organization website:
    Olympics Website

    Watch more Olympic clips on the official Olympic Channel on Youtube:
    Olympics Channel

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