The Rio Olympics are over, the Olympic flame extinguished. But before the final lights of the closing ceremony dimmed, Japan sent the world an invitation. After the traditional handover of the Olympic flag from the mayor of Rio to the governor of Tokyo, Japan gave the world a sneak peek, showing why everyone should be excited about coming to Tokyo in 2020, July 24 to August 9. The closing ceremony is an opportunity for the host of the next Olympics to whet the appetite of Olympians, wannabes and sports fans alike. And Japan did not disappoint.
The show at the end of the Rio Olympics closing ceremony was hippy, cutie, techie, sexy, targeting the hippocampus of youth the world over fascinated with Japan, it’s machines, its pop music, it’s kulture of kawaii.
An introductory video took us on a jazzy tour of Tokyo, starting us off at the famed zebra crossing in Shibuya. We see the red Super Komachi bullet train which harkens back to the first bullet train introduced 9 days before the start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. We see the Sky Tree, Tokyo’s newer, bigger tower, although it can never replace the iconic Tokyo Tower, built just prior to the 64 Games. We see Pacman, Doraemon and Hello Kitty, and athletes lined up in profile, reminiscent of the famous athlete posters designed by Yusaku Kamekura for the 1964 Games.
And we see Japan Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in a car, in a hurry to get from Tokyo to Rio. He can’t get there in seconds….unless of course, he turns in to Super Mario, who ends up taking a plunge down an animated tunnel, landing on the other side of the world in Rio. Abe likely had to be heavily convinced, or plied with much alcohol, to appear in a Super Mario costume in the middle of Maracana Stadium. But he did, figuring that if the Queen of England didn’t mind being parodied for the London Olympics opening ceremonies, then maybe he shouldn’t either.
The video was the prelude to a display of art, dance and technology that was both precise and frenetic, ending in a Tokyo tableau, framed by, what else, that unmistakable silhouette of Mount Fuji. At show’s end, Prime Minister said, “See you in Tokyo!”
So, will we see you in Tokyo? We certainly hope so!
The Debutante Ball is over. And Brazil is looking very good.
Despite all the issues that have arisen in Brazil in the run-up to August 5 – the impeachment of its President on corruption charges, the collapse of its economy, the constant news of the polluted Guanabara Bay, the shocking news of the impact of the zika virus, rumbles of possible riots by the underclass – the opening ceremonies at Maracanã Stadium went off pretty much without a hitch.
And there were a few big moments. Let me focus on three:
Sex: Carlos Nuzman is the president of the Rio Organizing Committee, and former member of the International Olympic Committee. He and his teammates likely helped inspire generations of volleyball fans in 1964 when he was on the men’s Brazilian team in Tokyo, where the sport debuted as an Olympic event. There he was on his country’s biggest stage on Friday, bubbling with excitement, exorcising all of the repressed worries he told countless people in the press not to be concerned with.
We never give up, we never give up. Let’s stay together when differences challenge us.
But to add a bit of spice to the formality of the opening speeches, Nuzman made one of those slips of tongue that the head of the IOC will never forget. Nuzman was responsible for introducing Thomas Bach, and said it was his honor “to hand over to the president of the IOC, the Olympic champion Thomas Bach, who always believed in the sex…success of the Rio 2016 Games.”
OK, Bach will always cherish that moment I’m sure…and it’s what’s on the mind of half the athletes at the moment anyway. (It’s been heavily reported that 450,000 condoms have been made available in the Olympic and Paralympic villages.)
Beauty: I’m a Jets fan. I hate Tom Brady. That goes with the territory. While Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, an instant hall of famer, his wife is arguably even more famous globally. Super Model, Gisele Bündchen, who was born in in Southern Brazil, travelled to London at 17. She was plucked out of the crowd of wannabes to make it on the catwalk for designer Alexander McQueen. From that point, Bündchen was a star, becoming a mainstay on the cover of Vogue and the body of Victoria’s Secret.
And so, in a moment of exquisite simplicity, the organizers brought together Brazil’s most famous song and its most famous face. First the crowd heard the massively familiar bossa nova rhythm and melody of The Girl from Ipanema, performed by Daniel Jobin, the grandson of the music’s writer, Antonio Carlos Jobim. From the other end of the stadium emerged the super model, coming out of retirement to make her final catwalk. Probably her longest catwalk ever, Bündchen sashayed some 150 meters across the entire stadium floor to the roars (and photo flashes) of 78,000 ecstatic fans.
Glory Restored: It was the marathon event at the 2004 Olympics, in the birthplace of the race, Greece. Brazilian, Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, of Cruzeiro de Oeste, was leading the marathon race with 7 kilometers to go when a strangely dressed spectator burst onto the road and just as suddenly pushed de Lima off the course. As I have described in a previous post, de Lima looked disgusted as he made his way back onto the course and continue on with the race. At the end of the 42-kilometer footrace, de Lima finished in third. There were attempts to give him a gold medal, but it is likely that since de Lima was still in first with a decent lead, the IOC decided to keep the results as is.
No doubt, this incredibly quirky incident was hard to forget for Brazilians, and particularly de Lima, who could have been on the top step of the awards podium, with a gold medal around his neck, listening to his national anthem. Instead, he listened to the Italian anthem, consoled with a medal of bronze.
Fast forward to 2016. The most famous athlete in Brazil, the legendary Pelé is rumored to be too ill to participate in the opening ceremonies. Up steps de Lima, who took the sacred flame from Brazilian basketball star, Hortência de Fátima Marcari, and carefully climbed the 28 steps to the Olympic cauldron. He raised the flame high with two hands to immense cheers, turned to the cauldron and ignited it, and the hearts of 78,000 people in the Stadium.
As the cauldron climbed into the night, to become the centerpiece of an incredible metal sculpture that turned the sacred flame into a swirling solar spectacle, de Lima was probably feeling the pride and joy he could’ve, should’ve, would’ve felt, if not for that crazy man in Greece in 2004. As the fireworks exploded around and above Maracanã Stadium, de Lima’s heart, I’m sure, was full.
On September 12, 1964, a month prior to the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Mainichi Daily News published the last of a 15-part UPI series entitled, “Great Cities of the World”. The article was entitled “Rio: The City of Marching For Tomorrow”, a meaningless title really. The theme was a familiar one for emerging markets at the time: a fascinating city in a far-off land that was growing rapidly into prominence.
Below are a few of the highlights from that article about the city of Rio de Janeiro that provide us with hints to what has changed, and what has not over the past 52 years.
Corruption: “Rio is still Brazil’s center of political intrigue and corruption.” The article goes on to state that the laws are made in the recently established government seat, Brasilia, but that “the deals are made in elegant Copacabana Beach apartments owned by leading politicians, or by their mistresses, distant relatives or front men.” For sure, this is still true.
Industry: “Rio, outside the big coffee-and-automobile complex of Sao Paulo, has managed to win a positions in the textile, food processing and electronics industries.” Coffee and cars are still big exports for Brazil, as are textiles, electronics, aircraft, iron ore and orange juice.
Feral Cats: “No reformer has yet suggested doing away with Rio’s half-wild stray cats, numbering countless thousands, which dominate every park, alley and quiet street and no one is likely to attack them. A lot of Cariocas believe cats have ‘the souls of people.'” Rio, apparently, is still a cat haven.
Not the Same
Population: The population in 1964 was 3million. Today, Rio is creaking with a population over 11 million.
Maracana Stadium: Rio still goes crazy for soccer and plays big games in the Maracana Stadium. However, back in 1964, the stadium held an astounding 230,000 people. After the stadium was renovated and re-opened in 2013, it now seats 78,000.
Guanabara Bay: “The sparkling blue beauty of Guanabara Bay…”: That certainly isn’t a phrase bandied about these days.
Fun in the Face of Solemnity and Challenge: As was true in 1964, it is still true today: the symbol of devout Catholic belief, Christ the Redeemer, is seen as a symbol of faith and peace, and at the same time, an expression of sweet cynicism. As the article stated, “‘He’s not giving His blessings,’ Cariocas like to wisecrack. ‘He is shrugging His shoulders.'”