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Film / Tokyo Olympiad

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Tokyo Olympiad is a 1965 documentary film directed by Kon Ichikawa with a soundtrack composed by Toshiro Mayuzumi.

It is a documentary of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. The games were widely seen as Japan's coming-out party on the world stage, 19 years after the end of World War II. Kon Ichikawa, an accomplished director of fiction movies, was hired to make a documentary, after Akira Kurosawa had been hired and then fired. Japanese authorities apparently regretted the decision to hire a more "artistic" director like Ichikawa than a documentarian, as Ichikawa's film is less concerned with the wins and losses than with the beauty of the scenery and the lives of athletes. It was eventually cut in half and re-released in Japan.

Compare Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, pretty much the only other Olympics documentary to be held in as high regard as this film.


  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Smokin' Joe Frazier, who won heavyweight boxing gold in Tokyo, is walking down a tunnel when he's startled to see that a camera is following him. After a Double Take he waves to the camera and then goes on his way.
  • Call-Back: The film is introduced by a tight closeup of the sun. After the intermission, the second part of the film starts exactly the same way.
  • Cue the Sun: A rising sun, symbolic of Japan, introduces the Olympic torch sequence.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Most of the film is shot in lush Technicolor, but there are a couple of exceptions.
    • The hammer throw is in black-and-white. This might be to match the weather, as the hammer throw took place in a driving rainstorm.
    • The boxing competition is also in black-and-white.
    • The modern pentathlon is shown not only in black-and-white, but as a series of still photographs.
  • Disturbed Doves: The opening ceremony features a flock of pigeons let loose Olympic-style. This is amusingly followed by shots of athletes cringing and ducking as pigeons zoom over their heads.
  • Documentary: Up there with Olympia in the elite level of sports documentaries.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: There's certainly humor in the cut between a glorious sun and a wrecking ball smashing buildings.
  • Match Cut: The opening closeup of the sun yields to a shot of a wrecking ball, which is knocking down buildings to make way for Olympic construction.
  • Narrator: A narrator reads a script written by Ichikawa's wife and creative partner, Natto Wada.
  • Staggered Zoom: Onto the face of Anton Geesink as he stands on the medal platform, having just won a gold medal in judo.