national stadium design_Kyodo and Japan Times
Kyodo

The $2 billion price tag for the new National Stadium in Tokyo proved to be too high. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, faced down the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and former prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, and send the committee back to the drawing board. This decision effectively removed the possibility of the stadium debuting for the 2019Rugby World Cup, according to this Japan Times article.

From the back cover of a special magazine on the Olympics, called
From the back cover of a special magazine on the Olympics, called “Tokyo Olympiku Special Edition, Tokyo Shimbun”

“The rising sun, the flames of the Olympic torch and the green grass of the stadium – what you saw in black and white in Rome, you can now see in color!” According to this ad, for about JPY200,000 you can be the proud owners of a 1964 Toshiba Color Television! The ad goes on to claim how America is buying up this TV due to its “wonderful” color technology.

By 1964, Japan’s economy had grown so robustly that 90% all households in Japan owned all of the so-called “three sacred treasures” – a television, a refrigerator and a washing machine. But of course, it was time to get an upgrade on that black and white clunker that was so 1950s, and buy a 1964 Toshiba Color Television!

The phrase, “three sacred treasures” (三種の神器 Sanshu no Jingi / Mikusa no Kandakara), is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the three items (a sword, a mirror and a jewel) that were brought from the heavens and granted to the first Emperor of Japan (a very long time ago). It is said that these items actually exist and the presentation of these treasures to a new emperor is still a significant part of the ascension ceremony.

Bob Schul victorious_
Bob Schul upon winning the 5,000 meter race in Tokyo, from the book “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad – Volume 16”

There comes a moment in your life, hopefully, when you realize that you are not apart from the world, that “no one is an island entire of itself”.

In the 1960s, the support from national Olympic committees and sports associations was not as great as it is today. Unless you were from a family of means, world-class athletes training for the Olympics had to sacrifice significantly to make ends meet. When long-distance runner, Bob Schul, was selected for the US track and field team, he did not have the means to bring his wife on the journey to Tokyo. His military paycheck yielded only $78 a month, which almost all went to food and the gas to pay for his car trips to the military base so he could train.

But as Schul related in his stirring autobiography, “In the Long Run”, schoolchildren in his hometown went door to door raising money in order to buy air ticket for Sharon Schul. Along with this financial contribution and a telegram with all the donor’s names – family and friends all – came this wonderful, heartfelt letter.

Dear Bob,

This is our way of expressing in you the pride we feel in our hearts at this time. The entire community has gained in civic pride from your achievements and representation. When you face the starting line and look up at the throng in that vast stadium, you’ll not be alone; for sitting there in spirit, and cheering you on, will be 3500 happy and emotion-packed citizens of West Milton. As the race is in progress, there will be 3500 heartbeats running in unison to yours. When you start your kick in that last lap, there’ll be 3500 people praying for you to have the strength to do your best. Win…lose…or draw, you’re a champion and first-class citizen in the minds and hearts of the people of this community. Good luck and God bless you.

A grateful Schul went on to win gold in the 5,000 meter race in 1964, the first and only American to do so in the Olympic Games.

From
From “THE GAMES OF THE XVIII OLYMPIAD TOKYO 1964: The Official Report of the Organizing Committee.”

All we see is the pomp and circumstance. But waiting for the start of the opening ceremony of an Olympics Games can be a dull and tiring affair.

As 400-meter individual medley swimmer, Dick Roth, wrote, after getting bussed to a large staging area on a beautiful Autumn day on October 10, 1964, all they did was wait. “We milled around for hours in our new uniforms, awaiting our turn to march in, not daring to sit down in our white pants or skirts. That part really wasn’t fun.”

The American, Roth, won gold in his event, so the wait was worth it. But if an Olympian’s event is in the day’s following the opening ceremony, they are often encouraged not to participate in the team march into the stadium. That’s what American diver, Frank Gorman, was advised.

“The diving events began the day after,” the silver medalist in the 3-meter springboard told me. “So we were cautioned by our coaches to not go. We stayed in the Village dormitories. By that time, we were so pleased that the coaches advised us to stay. You had to go five hours in advance and stand outside waiting for things to get organized. They spent 8 or 12 hours participating in the ceremonies. We would have been worn out.”

And yet, for many Olympians, it’s an experience of a life time. Wrote Roth, “It was overwhelming really – bright blue sky, the entire stadium filled with 75,000 applauding, cheering people, all of us athletes standing in formation on the field. The track was ringed with Japanese, dancing in colorful costumes. The Emperor was standing and waving. Flags and more flags. Did you ever wonder what’s going through an athlete’s mind during the Opening Ceremonies? In my case, nothing besides a bucketful of awe!”

 From

From “THE GAMES OF THE XVIII OLYMPIAD TOKYO 1964: The Official Report of the Organizing Committee.”

Arguably, the best food in Asia is Japan. High, medium or low-end, Japan eats are hard to beat. Even American fast food in Japan tastes better than the original in the US.

In 1964, arguably the best food in Japan was in Yoyogi. Apparently, the dining halls of the Olympic Village were all the rage. Where else could you sample the best cuisines of the globe in one place.

The main dining hall was divided into two sections – Fuji and Sakura dining halls – which could feed up to 1,000 people at a time. Each dining hall was subdivided into six rooms with a capacity of 108 people each, so considering the two halls, there were 12 equally sized dining areas. The various country delegations were divided into 21 groups depending on common dietary requirements or custom, with one dining room designated for each of those groups.

Since these dining rooms had specific hours, one dining hall, known as International Dining Room, was always open for business. Actually, as the Japan Olympic Committee charged each country’s Olympic committee only $6 a day for room and board, this would have been a lousy business. Instead, it was considered a memorable part of the Olympian experience in Tokyo.

For the weightlifters and wrestlers who needed some 7 to 8,000 calories a day, it was like being a kid in a candy store. For those runners and swimmers who had to stay slim and trim, the dining halls were a blessing and a curse.

Canadian field hockey center forward, Victor Warren, told me the food in Tokyo was so good, the athletes dubbed these games The Eating Olympics. “The food was excellent! For a bunch of young bachelors who are presented with a food fest, you can go crazy. You needed to be disciplined or you’d blow up like a blimp!”

Said Hermann Rusch, food consultant to the US Olympic team, to the Associated Press, “Never before have I seen anything like this setup. The Japanese are terribly efficient and wonderful cooks.”