The Olympians has been a labor of love for exactly two years. It is my sketchbook as I prepare for the mural masterpiece, a book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
While my book’s focus is on the XVIII Tokyo Olympiad, I use my blog as an excuse to write about anything even remotely related to these areas: the Tokyo Olympics, the Olympics overall, Japan, and sports in general. In other words, I think of my blog as therapy for a restlessly curious mind.
How else could I go 730 straight days without missing a post?
It’s been exactly two years since I started my journey to understand the context, the organization and the stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. My father was at those games as a news producer for NBC, and I turned one years old on Opening Day.
I moved to Tokyo for a third time in January, 2014, excited by Tokyo’s selection as the host city for the 2020 Summer Games. Surprised to find not a single book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in English, I endeavored to write the definitive record. On May 1, 2015, I started my blog, The Olympians is in many ways, the first draft of my book.
All, thank you for your wonderful comments and support!
Here is part 4 of a series on how the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 presented the typical Japanese family to the world. In these series of pictures, the writers again show how similar the typical Japanese and Western families actually are. Moms shout out to kids that dinner is ready, and they settle together at the dinner table to a wide variety of cuisine.
13 Amid the cackling and shouting of the kid on the lawn we hear Mother’ s voice. It’s supper time. Japan adopted daylight-saving-time shortly after the war, but the problem of getting the children inside while it was still light out proved too great, and daylight-saving-time was abandoned.
14 All the family members gather in the kitchen area for supper. For dinner you can expect any variety of Western, Chinese, Indian or Japanese food. No other nation offers such an array of homecooking. The availability of fresh meats and an abundant supply of fish give the homemaker scores of menu ideas. Rice, the all time favorite in Japan is losing some of its popularity to bread, especially at breakfast time. The main food seasoning is soy sauce, which was first introduced. to Japan from China centuries ago. Try a little on your fish.
When I read that Japanese typically eat Indian food, I had to pause for a moment. Indian food? Then I realized that one of the most popular dishes in the Japanese diet is indeed curry rice, a thick yellow curry that has been popular since the late 19th century when the British introduced it to the Japanese.
The article ends as does the day of the typical Japanese family – with everyone fast asleep, except the eldest son burning the midnight oil studying for university exams.
16 The family has retired for the night. What a long time we’ve been here! Only one light is burning. It’s in the room of the oldest boy who is studying for the university entrance examinations . He is preparing for the fiercest competition he may ever face. Taro, the family dog, is keeping the vigil outside. Well, good night now, have a good rest.
This is part 3 about how the Olympic Organizing Committee sought to educate the visiting foreigners about the typical Japanese household. Their message – yes, we’re Japanese, but we’re Western and Modern as well! In an article written in “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, the writers explained how up to the times the typical Japanese family was. Having said that, the Kato girls are stuck cooking in the kitchen and doing the laundry, albeit with the latest white goods on the market.
5 Kitchen Area. This functional modern design is gaining in popularity as fewer girls are willing to be house maids. The housewife’s aids today are electric appliances. Mrs. Kato and her daughter-in-law are clearing the breakfast table.
6 Laundry and Bath. The latest model washing machine and spin dryer. Look at the bathtub-in a Japanese style bath you wash and rinse outside the tub, and in this case, in a Western style shower. The water is not replaced for every bather so it’s important that you be clean before you get into the hot water of the tub to relax.
7 The handy folding clothesdryer can be moved to the sunniest areas as the sun moves across the sky.
10 With the washing in the fresh air, Mother turns to sewing. New electric sewing machines have made it possible for women to make their own kimonos at home. Once kimonos had to be made by professional dress makers. Japan currently produces sewing machines, at an annual rate of 3.5 million, many of which are ex ported.
Through the eyes of mother Kato, the writers show how Japan has modernized. First, mom drives! How else can she attend PTA meetings and buy her groceries at the increasingly popular supermarket!
11 Faced with increasing duties at home and outside, Mother has learned to drive. Alas, she had the new car two months before she could pass the driving test!
12 After attending a PTA meeting at the school of her youngest child, Mother stops at a supermarket on her way home. Supermarkets came into vogue in Japan about three years ago and have proved so popular with house wives that there are some 2,000 supermarkets in Tokyo alone.
It was the late 1970s and NYC was in the economic dumps. I used to take the train to a station called 23rd and Ely when there was a guy who used to jump in and out of the subway cars with an axe, taking swings at unsuspecting passengers.
I spent my high school summers with a friend in a magazine delivery sorting warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, unloading heavy canvas bags filled with magazines from all over the world, sorting them by postal code into boxes, and repacking them into the bags by area. We worked hard for our minimum wage.
Long Island City was typical of the neighborhoods along the western waterfront part of Queens facing Manhattan – warehouses, factories, chop shops and vacant lots. For decades, various administrations had tried to transform this prime waterfront property, but to little avail.
Like many other places in the five boroughs, it needed an Olympian shove. When Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his deputy, Daniel Doctoroff, kicked off in 2002 a campaign to bid for New York City to be host to the 2012 Summer Olympics, it triggered a comprehensive planning process that has altered the look of the city, and continues to do so.
Hunters Point South is several miles south of Long Island City where I sweated my high school summers away. Hunters Point was to be the site of the Olympic Village, a peaceful oasis surrounded by water on three sides, and yet within 10 kilometers of almost all major sporting venues. Hunters Point was to become the home for some 4,400 units in mid-rise buildings, and after the Olympians went home, would be converted into affordable housing – with a spectacular view of the East River and the Manhattan skyline.
The Olympic Village was no longer necessary after NYC came in fourth in the 2012 bidding process. But the development plans in Hunters Point continued. According to Wikipedia, “As of Spring 2017, the project had attracted $2 billion from private investors. The plan calls for a 10-year build-out of 5,000 dwelling middle-income units, 1,100-seat intermediate/high school, waterfront park of 11 acres (45,000 m2), 96,500 sq ft (8,970 m2) for commercial development, 4,600 sq ft (430 m2) of community space.”
And that’s just Queens.
Manhattan: Although a new stadium for the New York Jets was not built over the Hudson Yards, the bidding process resulted in the rezoning of the area, paving the way for commercial and residential development.
While the LIRR trains at the Hudson Yards are still not covered, development plans for new residential and commercial buildings continue. Part of the Olympic development plan was to convert an old eyesore, an elevated train line, called the High Line, into a walkway from 34th street to the Village downtown. This plan has gone ahead, and a recent visit speaks to its vast popularity. This area was never really accessible to public transportation, so the Olympic bid accelerated the push to extend the #7 subway line to Hudson Yards. You can now get to the waterfront and the starting point for the High Line by taking the 7 train to 34th Street–Hudson Yards train station, which opened in September 2015.
Brooklyn: Thanks to the Olympic bid and planning process, parts of the Brooklyn waterfront were re-zoned to create parks and develop residential and retail space, transforming the Greenpoint and Williamsburg parts of Brooklyn.
Bronx: Although the Olympics did not come to New York, and thus the facilities for track cycling and badminton did not come to the Bronx as a result, the bid process helped spur the redevelopment of what has been described as the dilapidated (and mostly unused) Bronx Terminal Market, which is now the home to a $500 million mall.
Ferry Service: Apparently, there were plans for Olympic athletes to get to certain venues by boat. While the IOC did not approve of that form of transportation, the idea for private ferry services remained alive. “In the summer of 2011, the City launched a new private ferry service linking East River waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens to Midtown and Lower Manhattan,” according to a report.
Harlem Armory and Queens Pool: Going ahead with plans hatched in the Olympic bid plan, the city continued with renovation of the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem, which was to house the boxing events, and a public pool in Flushing, Queens, which was to be the venue for water polo.
Much of the above information has been culled from this fascinating report, “How New York City Won The Olympics”, by Mitchell L. Moss Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.
It was November, 2011, only a few months after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, and Michael Bloomberg was elected the new mayor of this broken metropolis, the wounds of 9-11 were still exposed and bleeding.
And yet, with Bloomberg’s appointment of Daniel L. Doctoroff as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding, the mayor triggered the start of a massive and well organized urban renewal development process that leveraged the Olympic Candidate bidding process to transform the city.
When he was an investment banker on Wall Street, Doctoroff was astonished to see the World Cup hosted in the United States at Giants Stadium in 1994, and how well received it was. He saw how one of the biggest events in the world was so welcome in New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world. Since that time, Doctoroff had been on a mission to bring the Summer Olympic Games to New York City, and finally got the podium and the means to do so in the Bloomberg administration.
According to the report by Mitchell L. Moss Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, Doctoroff’s strategy was to bring together all of the independent development ideas and plans for various parts of New York City and see whether they could all be put to use in the service of an Olympics. In Moss’ fascinating report, “How New York City Won The Olympics” (yes, I stole his title), all of these independent development projects were meandering along until Doctoroff argued for simultaneous fulfilment of these projects using the idea of an Olympic Games in New York City as a driving vision.
The NYC2012 team built upon previous studies by municipal agencies and civic groups. What was perhaps unprecedented, was the effort to aggregate all these areas in an overall development plan. The Olympic presentation offered a broad five-borough agenda for future development that gave priority to these neglected areas for comprehensive City action. No comparable city-wide plan for short-term action, involving a broad range of targeted areas in all five boroughs, had ever been presented or carried out in the modern history of New York City.
Doctoroff was also able to use the Olympic Games candidate city bid process as a way to drive a planning cadence and a sense of urgency.
The Bloomberg Administration now sought to use the pressure of the fixed, Olympic bid timetable to push forward the legal and technical review and approval of these projects on an accelerated schedule so that by the time of the IOC decision in mid-2005, they would be positioned to go forward regardless of whether New York City’s bid was successful.
As you are aware, the 2012 Olympics went to London, and NYC finished fourth behind Paris and Madrid. Perhaps New York City was never really in the running. The official reasons were that the Winter Olympics would be in Vancouver in 2010, so they couldn’t have two Olympics in a row in North America – a fairly weak reason considering that from 2018 to 2022 three straight Olympics will be held in Asia. Perhaps the US invasion of Iraq, and the memories of 9-11 left a tiny tingling fear in the amygdala of the IOC members.
Regardless of the bid vote, the Bloomberg administration was committed, in the aftermath of 9-11, to revitalize New York City across all five boroughs in a way unprecedented since the Robert Moses years. And as you can read in Part 4, many of the development plans designed for the NYC2012 Candidate bid were pushed forward.
Economist Andrew Zimbalist has written a fascinating book on the economics of Big Tent sporting events like the Olympics called Circus Maximus – The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. He writes eloquently about how often the economic impact on host cities is negative. But Zimbalist cites the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as the poster child for how to do it right. And as you can see in his advice, New York City followed the Barcelona template:
In 1983, city planners put out a preliminary report on the feasibility of hosting the Olympics and concluded that the refurbishment of the 1936 stadium in Montjuic (which became the Olympic Stadium) and the construction of the Sports Palace and Swimming facility would be undertaken whether or not the city was selected to host the games. Of the thirty-seven sports facilities ultimately used during the 1992 Olympics, twenty-seven were already built and another five were under construction at the time Spain was selected to host the games in 1986. Thus a central feature of the Barcelona experience is that the plan preceded the games, and hence the games were put at the service of the preexisting plan, rather than the typical pattern of the city development plan being put at the service of the games.
In late 2004, New York City wasn’t seen as having much of a chance to win the right to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, at least by bookmakers in London. According to a November 16, 2004 Newsday article, Paris was viewed as 1-2 favorites – in other words, for every $2 you put down on Paris, you’d win $1 assuming Paris won. London and Madrid were seen as good chances as well, at 3-1 and 4-1 respectively. New York City was considered unlikely at 14-1, although Moscow seemed out of the running with 33-1 odds. Europe appeared to have a lock on the 2012 Games.
New York City had advantages: a modern metropolis with world-class facilities in a compact area, a diverse and energetic populace, financial feasibility, as well as a powerful PR man in Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The organizers of the Paris Olympic bid were dismissive of the bid coming out of the US. After all, Paris is not only the birthplace of the modern Olympics, it had hosted the Olympics three times, and had more recently built up credibility over two previous bids. New York City, on the other hand, was the biggest city in the increasingly unpopular United States and President George Bush, who led the surprising charge into Iraq. With America fighting such an unpopular war, what is to stop terrorists from targeting New York City again during the Olympic Games?
As Jean-Paul Huchon, the vice president of the Paris Olympic bidding committee put it, “The position of the French government on the international scene, especially after the re-election of George Bush, is going to allow us to have more unity around the French candidacy,” he said in a November 18, 2004 International Herald Tribune article. “This is indisputable. If these are supposed to be the Games of brotherhood and solidarity, this would be more easily achieved in Paris.”
Perhaps that issue weighed heavily in the minds of the International Olympic Committee. Perhaps not. It’s possible that the bigger advantage that Paris had over NYC was that Paris had The Stade de France – a newly built stadium that seated over 81,000 in the center of Paris. At the last stage in the bidding process in February, 2004, New York City still did not have a definitive plan for a stadium.
This was New York’s 20th century West Side Story.
And strangely enough, it involved The Jets.
In the 26-acre area squared in by 30th and 42nd streets, and Tenth Avenue and the Hudson River, is the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train terminal where trains departing Penn Station a few blocks away rest. It has been an open air eyesore in a poorly developed part of Manhattan, that had been a target for development and reinvigoration by city planners for decades. The fact that there was no subway service to that area, among other reasons, made it a challenging decision to give he go ahead to further develop this massive plot.
But when the Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg teamed up for a vision of an Olympics across all five boroughs of New York City, its center in Manhattan, momentum began to build for the establishment of an Olympic Stadium in area called the West Side, but they began to call the Hudson Yards. The American football team – the New York Jets – were bought by Woody Johnson four years previously. His Jets were sharing a stadium with the New York Giants in New Jersey, and so Johnson wanted to have a stadium exclusively for his team. Thus was hatched a plan for The New York Jets to spend $800 million for a stadium on the West Side, with the city and state governments providing another $600 million to fund the construction of the platform that would cover the trains and tracks of the terminal.
The vision included the stadium’s linkage to the aging Jacob Javits convention center, which was the city’s premier convention center, but tiny compared to the centers in other major cities. The new stadium would include a roof that would open up a massive amount of space for conventions, and thus potentially attract significant business and visitors to the Big Apple.
And yet, this was not a vision universally approved. For one, James Dolan, the owner of Cablevision and Madison Square Garden, objected to a rival sports complex opening literally blocks away from his own. Dolan not only aired critical ads against the proposed stadium, he eventually fought back by offering the Metropolitan Transit Authority a bid to compete with the new York Jets’ bid.
Additionally, voices were vociferously raised against the stadium by people living in the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as the nearby theater district, who saw the increased construction and traffic as a problem worth protesting.
So even before the IOC voted on which city to select for 2012, a New York State board called the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), put a dagger in the heart of the New York City bid. The PACB represents the New York State governor and the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly, and they voted to not approve the plans for the stadium and the convention center extension, perhaps reluctant to use significant state funds for a massive city project.
In the end, the London bookies were right – the winning money was indeed on London. The Jets would remain in New Jersey. And New Yorkers would get on with their lives. Fuhgetaboutit.
It was February, 2005. The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission was in New York City, checked in at the prestigious Plaza Hotel, overlooking a picturesque Central Park draped in snow. The once-in-a-lifetime Christo and Jean-Claude exhibition known simply as The Gates – massive saffron-colored banners dotting the walkways of the park.
To this IOC commission, the one that would decide whether New York City, Paris, London, Madrid or Moscow would win the right to host the 2012 Olympics, the messaging was consistent. There’s no place like New York City. And there’s no better place to host the Summer Olympics than the Big Apple.
Picture this, they likely said to the commission members:
See the iconic Batman symbol of Gotham City, see the Olympic Rings shining in the New York night.
Imagine athletes of the world floating down the Hudson River in an armada, their procession leading them to the Olympic Stadium on the newly revitalized West Side.
Know that the world’s best athletes would compete in iconic, world-renown venues: basketball at Madison Square Garden, baseball at Yankees Stadium, tennis at Arthur Ashe Stadium (where the US Open is held), soccer at Giants Stadium, the triathlon in Central Park!
How about a closing ceremonies that includes a massive ticker tape parade down Broadway and the Canyon of Heroes.
And don’t forget that New York City is a microcosm of the world. The Statue of Liberty has welcomed the world for over a century. As the NYC2012 slogans stated, “Every Country Gets Home Field Advantage” and “Every Flag Will Wave”.
At this time, I had just moved from Bangkok, Thailand to Tokyo, Japan. My mind was filled with the tsunami that had just hit Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, and my relocation to Japan. I had no idea what was going on in my hometown of New York City. But if I had been aware, I’m sure I would have been on the bandwagon.
I could see that vision. I can still see that vision. It is worthy of New York City.
A friend of mine in Denmark recently sent me a wonderful gift – a commemorative souvenir stamp sheet that went on sale on October 10, 1964, the opening day of XVIII Olympiad in Tokyo.
It is a beautiful set that show off some of the iconic venues of the Tokyo Games, including the 30-yen stamp featuring the Nippon Budokan Hall. The popular Japanese martial art of judo was debuting at the 1964 Games, and the Japanese government decided to build a structure just for judo at the Olympics.
Not only was the stamp publicizing the Budokan, it was helping to pay for it.
From the first Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, governments have raised funds for Olympiads through the issuance of stamps. According to the IOC, more than 50 million Olympic stamp series have been issued since 1896, generating revenue for Olympic operating committees through surcharges on stamps.
An organization called the Olympic Fund Raising Association was created in December, 1960, mandated with raising funds primarily from private sources. The Association was responsible for raising funds for the Olympic Organizing Committee, the Japan Amateur Sports Associations to help raise the performance level of athletes in Japan, as well as for the construction of the Budokan.
And according to the final report of the Olympic Games published by the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, stamps were the Association’s best money maker, as you can see in the table below. What’s also interesting is the number of fund raising projects the Association oversaw: advertising in telephone books and trains. And not only did they make money off of selling cigarettes, but also thanks to legalized gambling in motorboat, bicycle and motorcycle racing, among many other things.
The Olympic Fund Raising Association raised a total of around JPY6 billion (USD16 million), and 16% or JPY963 million was due to stamps.
We live in a 24/7 always on world. When NBC delayed broadcast of premier sporting events at the Rio Olympics, so that they could present them during prime time in the evenings, their strategy backfired for many. After all, in today’s world, people can learn of the results instantly.
NBC recently announced that for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in early 2018, all broadcasts will be live, no matter the time in the US.
“That means social media won’t be ahead of the action in any time zone, and as a result, none of our viewers will have to wait for anything,” Jim Bell, president for NBC Olympics production and programming, said in a statement. “This is exciting news for the audience, the advertisers and our affiliates alike.”
Since South Korea will be 14 hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States, if an ice hockey match starts at 8pm in Korea, then New Yorkers can watch it real time, but they’ll have to be up at 6 am to do so. Of course, if you’re a big hockey fan, trying to avoid hearing the score for another 12 hours before watching it prime time would be a pain in the neck, if not impossible.
This may actually be ho hum news for most people.
But in 1964, the prospect of broadcasting the Tokyo Olympics live to other continents was an exciting thought.
Live broadcasts in 1964 were not new. The 1936 Berlin Olympics were shown live on German television. The 1960 Rome Olympics were the first to be broadcast live across Europe. But, according to John Slater of Western Carolina University, Japan wanted the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to be the first broadcast live to another continent.
Slater wrote in this abstract that members of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee wanted the Tokyo Games to be known as the Technology Games. And so they contacted the American government in Washington D. C. if they would be willing to adapt American communication satellites designed for telephone communications to relay television signals. American officials also thought it would be very cool to be the first Games to broadcast signals literally across the globe.
NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporate, built a transmitter in Japan, and the US Navy made modifications to a communications facility in California, and NASA which operated the satellite Syncom II, moved its orbiting location from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And when they tested the ability to send visual and audio television signals from Japan to North America real time, it worked! But as Slater wrote, NBC, which owned the broadcast rights in the United States, got very defensive.
The U.S. Department of State coordinated the use of the necessary radio frequencies. The system worked, and the Communication Satellite Corporation offered to make satellite time available. Both CBC and the European Broadcasting Union signed up for an hour a day, at a cost of U.S. $150 a minute.
But NBC chose to protect its investment in exclusivity. It got hung up on NASA’s policy that programs sent via experimental satellites should be made freely available to all competing media. In the end, only the opening ceremonies were televised live in the United States, and then only in the East. During the competition itself, U.S. viewers had to wait to see next-day videotapes of the Games, while viewers in Canada and Europe got the full benefit of live coverage. The Canadians had embraced the new technology, while the U.S. broadcasters tried to fend it off as a threat to their commercial interests.
NBC got an earful for promising live broadcasts, but actually providing tape-delayed shows in the evenings.
But that was 1964. Today, on the eve of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, NBC will be giving sports fans immediate gratification.