The crowds were out on Omotesando to see a repeat of history. Photo by Roy Tomizawa

When Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s acrobat jet team, The Blue Impulse, flew across that beautiful blue sky on October 10, 1964, Japan ooh-ed and ah-ed.

It was a spectacular moment on a spectacular day as Japan welcomed the world to a country, not bowed and backward, but proud and modern.

Victor Warren, a member of the Canadian field hockey team, was on the filed during the 1964 Opening Ceremonies. “I’ll never forget,” he said. “It stuck in my mind –  five jets in the air which drew the Olympic rings. It was magic. It was terrific. It was a beautiful start to a beautiful day.”

On July 23rd, a little bit before 1 pm, the organizers hoped to capture that magic again. I made my way to Harajuku, near the entrance to Meiji Shrine. As I got close to the intersection in front of the main train station, the sidewalk got more congested.

Blue Impulse about to ring the sky. Photo by Roy Tomizawa

The place was packed. People filled the overpasses and the sidewalks, looking upwards, hoping to pick up telltale sounds of approaching jet engines. And then suddenly, there they appeared from the north, five jets in formation. Way up high amidst puffy white clouds and a light blue sky, the jets made a couple of passes. Their third time through, they flew in individually, spewing colored smoke.

In 1964, you could see the rings and their colors clearly. But the clouds seemed to get in the way in the 2021 version. People ooh-ed and ah-ed, but in an uncertain way. I could see the rings formed partially, but I never saw five fully formed rings in the sky.

The crowd applauded, politely.

More importantly, there was a crowd. And they were excited to connect to the spirit and energy of 1964.

Just watch this clip from the movie, “Always – Sunset on Third Street ’64.” This scene captures that moment in Japan perfectly.

As the protagonist in the film clip says, “and now, finally, it’s the Olympics!”

(For better pictures of the 2020 sky writing, go here.)

jets drawing the olympic rings 1
From the official report of the Tokyo Olympic Committee, The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964

It was one of many proud and emotional moments for the Japanese, as 80,000 in the National Stadium stood for the playing of the Japanese national anthem at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. And then, breaking the crowd murmur and piercing the crisp blue Autumn sky were five jet planes of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. The crowd looked to the sky in awe to see the five jets skywriting the five rings of the Olympic movement.

Victor Warren of the Canadian field hockey team told me “it was magic! It was a beautiful start to a beautiful day.”

The jets over that Tokyo sky on October 10, 1964 represented precision, artistry, modernity and a profound understanding by the Japanese that the Olympics deserved big moments.

Will 2020 have a similar moment?

How about creating a man-made meteor shower?

Star ALE man mde meteors

A Japanese start up called Star-ALE (not the Manchester beer) is hoping to pull off the moment of the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremonies. The leaders of Star-ALE aren’t talking about launching rockets into the sky, but dropping man-made meteors from space! They call this spectacular piece of performance art SkyCanvas. “Making the sky a screen is this project’s biggest attraction as entertainment. It’s a space display,” said Star-ALE founder and CEO Lena Okajima.

Star ALE orbit

What Star-ALE plans to do is to launch a series of microsatellites that will hold some 5,000 to 1,000 specially-created pellets. These pellets will circle about a third of the circumference of the earth before they begin their spectacular fiery burn into earth’s atmosphere some 35 to 50 kilometers above land. They plan to employ a variety of chemical concoctions that will result in a wide range of colors streaking the sky.

Star ALE colors

Star-ALE writes on their website that they plan to launch their first satellite in 2017, launching a new one every year after. By 2020, they expect to bring the heavens down on Japan for a spectacular start to the XXXII Olympiad.

Star ALE area of visibility

Watch the concept video below to visualize the future.