PyeongChang Olympic ski venue

I’ve decided on a Christmas present for myself – a trip to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics!

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago thinking – South Korea is only 2 hours away by plane, February is manageable workwise, and I’m a total fanatic about the Olympics – why not go?

So, I’m going. But I had to make some decisions based on information only on the Internet.

Rooms were hard to figure out. Nothing but guest houses with shared space, or really expensive hotel rooms seemed available. Then, Airbnb came to the rescue! I found a private room not far from the Olympic Stadium, and the hosts speak English!

Then, I had to see whether I could purchase tickets for the Opening Ceremonies. I know that ticket sales for these Winter Games are a little weak right now, but I thought that the opening ceremonies would be sold out by now. They weren’t! I secured my seat for the evening of February 8!

And finally, I had to buy my plane ticket, which was the easiest of the tasks. After I arrive in Seoul, I will take a train from Incheon to Jinbu Station, check in, and have a day to acclimate to the surroundings.

How cold will it be? Will tickets for all events be relatively easy to attain? How convenient is transportation between the various sites? Will I make further inroads in my understanding of the Olympic bureaucracy, and expand my Olympic network? Will the Games actually be exciting?

I look forward to answering those questions!

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Fuji Film 1_Hoisting of the 97 participating nations' flags

It was minutes before the commencement of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the flags of 93 nations rising into a clear blue sky. The above photo was snapped and compiled into a set of photos by Fuji Film commemorating the XVIII Olympiad’s opening ceremony, which began at 2pm on Saturday, October 10, 1964, 53 years ago today.

Fuji Film 2_Japanese Delegation Entering the Stadium

The athletes would have to deal with cold and wet conditions for much of the Tokyo Olympics, but that day, the 5,500 athletes marched into the National Stadium under perfect conditions. As tradition has it, the host nation’s team marches into the Stadium last. Expectations were high for Team Japan, with a goal set of 15 gold medals. They actually achieved 16, third best after the US and USSR.

Fuji Film 3_IOC President Avery Brundage's Welcome

The President of the Organizing Committee for the Games, Daigoro Yasukawa, can be seen above introducing the International Olympic Committee President, Avery Brundage. In the official report which offered a post mortem of the Games from an operational perspective, Yasukawa expresses gratitude to the people of Japan.

…it was because Japanese in all walks and interests of life worked together in close and harmonious cooperation—all with one basic goal—that these Games might be an unqualified success. This spirit permeated into the Organizing Committee, and was to be found also in the sports associations and the many cooperating organizations involved. This surely is the only factor that enabled success in our organization efforts.

Fuji Film 4_Emperor Hirohito opens the Games

At the end of the Second World War, in the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the Emperor’s voice was heard over the radio for the first time by his Japanese subjects. The Emperor asked his people to surrender, to “bear the unbearable, and endure the unendurable.” Nineteen years later, the Emperor is presiding over the Olympics, an event symbolizing peace and unity, in a city that was unrecognizable from its bombed-out shell in 1945. As noticed in this Japan Times article, the scene depicted in this photo may have been striking to many Japanese as the only person standing in the stadium was the Emperor – a role reversal of sorts in a very different time.

Fuji Film 5_Hoisting of the Olympic Flag

After the Emperor declared the XVIII Olympiad open, the Olympic Flag was brought into the stadium by Japanese self-defense forces, the embroidered satin flag initially brought in by the Mayor of Rome, the site of the XVII Olympiad. The flag was raised exactly 15.21 meters into the air. That was the distance Mikio Oda hopped, skipped and jumped to win the gold medal in the triple jump at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, Japan’s first ever gold medal.

Opening Ceremonies Ticket_front

Imagine it’s October 9, 1964 and you have this ticket to the Opening Ceremonies of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on the next day. 

This is the day over 5,000 athletes and the entire population of Japan has been waiting for – the start of a new Japan.

And by the looks of it, your ticket is in a prime location – Q-57, 5 UPP. I’m not 100% sure where that seat is on the map provided on the back of the ticket, but my guess is the area I highlighted in blue.

Opening day

If it is indeed that section, you are in an honored section. Since the design of this ticket is different from the tickets generally sold, these may be for special guests, as indicated by the word “SPECIAL” written on the ticket’s map.

Special perhaps because in 5 UPP, Q-57, you will be seated very near the center of the stadium, almost directly opposite the Olympic cauldron, where a teenager from Hiroshima, born on the day an atomic bomb was dropped on his city, would climb the steps and light the Olympic flame.

Less than 50 meters in front and below you will be seated Emperor Hirohito, who will launch the Games.

And thousands of the world’s best athletes will march into the stadium by your seat, as if they are marching for you.

Don’t lose that ticket. It’s going to be quite a show.

Konjiki Tsukasa and Masa Akimoto _The Yomiuri_October 5, 1964
From The Yomiuri_October 5, 1964

Konjiki Tsukasa was on October 10. So he thought it would be great to get married on October 10. And since the Olympics were in town, why not get married at the National Stadium on October 10, 1964, the opening day of the Tokyo Olympics.

His fiance, Masa Akimoto, agreed.

But first they had to get tickets. According to an article in The Yomiuri on October 11, 1964, the couple had 70 friends apply for opening day tickets, perhaps the hottest tickets ever to go on sale in Japan at the time. The system at the time was to apply and get your names thrown in a lottery. Fortunately, two of their friends landed them a ticket each.

But now, in addition to a ticket for the priest, they needed two witnesses. Instead of trying to find two more tickets, Konjiki called the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) many times to try to convince them to find two people who already had tickets to the Opening Ceremonies to be their wedding witnesses. According to an October 5 Yomiuri article, JTB personnel did not initially take the requests seriously, suspecting a possible scam. But Konjiki persisted, and finally convinced JTB to find two people who happened to be seated near Konjiki and Akimoto. JTB then provided an extra ticket for the priest.

Wearing red blazers with the Olympic emblem, likely similar to what the members of the Japanese Olympic team wore, the party of five entered the stadium at 10 am, about 5 hours prior to the start of the Games, and got hitched. They then proceeded to wait patiently, got to their seats for the Opening Ceremonies, and had one of the memorable wedding days a Japanese couple could possibly have.

That was one way to get in to see the Opening Ceremonies. The Yomiuri explained on October 11 another way…which did not end well. I’ll just let you read the report about these two students:

Two youths without tickets so eager to see the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games that they hid themselves in National Stadium before the event, were arrested before the start of ceremonies by patrolling policemen.

A 19-year-old boy from Tsuabame, Niigata-ken, whose name was withheld, entered the stadium Thursday (two days before) wearing a fake press armband, after showing a business card of a Niigata Nippo newspaper reporter.

A second youth, Shuro Iino, 21, freshman a Waseda University, was discovered hiding in a toilet at 11:15 pm Friday, after climbing over a fence.

Opening Ceremony Maracana Stadium 2016August 5_New York Times
New York Times

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.

gisele bundchen rio olympics
Gisele Bündchen – click on this image to see a video of the moment.

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.

Vanderlei de Lima lighting the cauldron
Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lighting the Olympic cauldron.
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.

Japan Times, October 11, 1964
Japan Times, October 11, 1964

I was one. Exactly.

The day the Tokyo Olympics began.

It was a moment

of Pride

of Joy

of Hope

for all Japanese.

Roy around 1 years old, the only nude photo of him on the internet
Roy around 1 years old, the only nude photo of him on the internet

The song, “Konnichi wa, Akachan,” (“Hello, My Baby”) was one of the most popular songs of the time in Japan, and it’s cheerful melody and lyrics or promise represented the mood of the country when Japan welcomed the world.

Michiyo Azusa’s song sold over a million record from its debut in July 1963, written by the singer/composer duo who brought you the equally popular hit, Sukiyaki.

“Hello, my baby, it’s your life!

Hello, my baby, it’s your future!”

Japan was re-born, rising, literally, from the ashes of a tragic Pacific War. And in only one generation , Tokyo was bringing the hot spotlight on Asia for the first time with the debut of the biggest sporting spectacle in the world – the Olympic Summer 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!”