Lighting the sky during the closing minutes of the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, the huge electric scoreboard flashed the farewell message, ARRIVE-DERCI A TOKYO 1964—"Till we meet again in Tokyo 1964."
The words were seen by the Japanese team and by 120 other Japanese who had been dispatched to Rome to observe how the West puts on an Olympics. After Rome's gorgeous and magnificent display, twinges of self-doubt must have stirred in the breasts of the Japanese, who will stage the next Games in 1964. But if they were struck dumb with fear, as some Tokyo newspapers reported, they had an odd way of showing their paralysis. In the three-quarters of a year since Rome, the Japanese have pushed ahead on an ambitious program which, when it is through, will have changed the face of Tokyo.
Many Japanese are already viewing the Games as a milestone in their country's history. They see them as a sign of Japan's maturity as a modern state, a return to respectability after the dark years of militarism and an opportunity to show off their nation's talents. They are well aware that this XVIII Olympiad will be the first ever held in Asia—the first in a non-Western country. Their prestige will be challenged and the fear of losing face is great.
The tasks before them are appalling. "It will take a miracle to get ready for the Games," the Tokyo Times gloomily predicted. What it had in mind was the-traffic chaos and the bone-crushing crowding in what is now the largest city on earth. Tokyo is a great stew of 9.7 million frighteningly energetic people squeezed into an urban pressure cooker. The struggle for elbow room on the overworked subways and trains goes on day and night, and the competition of 600,000 vehicles in the narrow, potholed lanes and the few boulevards has crushed any old-fashioned ideas of etiquette. With its mingling of commerce and government and the gaudiest night life since the fall of Rome, Tokyo is New York and Washington combined, with a heavy coating of Las Vegas. Unplanned, unlovely and hazardous but hypnotically exciting, Tokyo mushrooms by 300,000 more people every year. By Olympics time its population will number 10½ million, its vehicles over 1 million.
May 7, 1961
Happily, the major problems are being squarely faced, and there is already impressive planning to back up the promise by Masaji Tabata, secretary general of Japan's Olympic organizing committee, that the Tokyo Games "will be more impressive and colorful than Rome." One fervent preacher of the Olympic gospel, former physician and professor Ryotaro Azuma, now 68, campaigned so vigorously to bring the Games to Tokyo that he was elected governor of Tokyo last year, largely on the strength of that reputation. He is now the prime mover behind an elaborate structure of committees presently at work preparing the Games. The organizing committee began with a secretariat of 27 persons in 1959. It expects to have 500 on the payroll by 1964.
The organizers gained a valuable backlog of experience by staging the Third Asian Games in Tokyo in 1958. The 1964 Olympics will be built around the same facilities in Meiji Shrine Park, now called Olympic Park, but almost everything will be expanded and improved. The National Stadium, seating 60,000, will be enlarged at a cost of $2.8 million to seat 85,000 and accommodate 100,000 spectators in all. It is the central unit of a sports complex that includes a new metropolitan gymnasium, a handsome swimming stadium and even the Prince Chichibu Rugby Ground. Less than five miles away is a second sports complex, with a baseball stadium, gymnasium, volleyball and hockey grounds and other facilities. These two centers, along with other parks, halls and harbors to be built or improved, will take care of the Games.
The Olympic Village will be built at Asaka, known as Camp Drake when it was the site of the American security forces in Tokyo, a little more than nine miles from Olympic Park. At a cost of $8.3 million, the Tokyo housing agency and Japan's aptly named Self-Defense Forces will erect 55 dormitory buildings, most of them four stories high, to house 9,000 athletes and 3,000 Boy Scouts and servicemen who will help run the village. In all, the Japanese will spend $56 million for sports facilities and $16.8 million for operating expenses. To solve the traffic problem, national and city governments have announced plans to spend $280 million on new roads. They will include a freeway between Olympic Village and the main stadium, and a new highway, now being built, linking Haneda Airport to downtown Tokyo. There is also a possibility that monorail and helicopter services will be added.
Tokyo has 4,713 "Western-style" hotel rooms. With a flock of huge new hotels now being built or planned, the city is guaranteed at least 7,000 rooms by Olympic time that will accommodate at least 10,000 persons. But an estimated 30.000 foreigners are expected to swarm into Tokyo. Some may have to live aboard ocean liners in Tokyo Bay. The Olympic authorities will build a press hotel for 1,000 newsmen and are offering incentives to businessmen to raise new hotels or convert Japanese inns in Tokyo to "Western style." Like most Japanese, the officials are convinced that no Westerner can tolerate or rightly appreciate the chairless, bedless "Japanese-style" hotel, which, in fact, is delightfully Oriental and a joy to experience.
The Japanese are no less concerned about offending the visitor's eyes and his sense of direction. The unsightly billboards that deface the views along railway lines and many key roads will be removed under the terms of a bill to be introduced soon in the Diet. Other legislation will attempt to head off commercialization of the Games so that they will be "a pure athletic festival." The authorities also plan to name the important streets and to post signs. As things now stand, foreigners in Tokyo must grope their way around town by looking for weather-beaten wooden arrows erected years ago by the occupation forces when they made a stab at sorting out the main streets by letters and numbers.
How to pay?
How to raise some of the direct Olympic costs has been a subject of continuing controversy in Tokyo. Governor Azuma came back from Rome advocating a baseball lottery on the order of Italy's Totocalcio. The pres and many sportsmen savagely denoun ed the proposal for fear that professional baseball as well as the Olympics would be tainted with gambling. It hasn't been heard about since. Instead, the money raisers plan to produce special horse races, sell New Year's and Olympic postcards and go after the average man's small change through stamp and cigarette sales.
Still to be decided by the planners are the exact dates of the Games, what sports to include on the program and how the Olympic torch will be brought to Tokyo. The vagaries of Japanese weather are creating real trouble over the selection of a date. Late May or early June, when Japanese weather is near perfect, leaves most of the world's athletes with too little time to complete their university schedules and work in a few weeks of practice. Midsummer is far too hot and humid for athletic comfort and early autumn is the typhoon season. Compromising, the Japanese have approved a two-week period in October, and this is the proposal they will make at the next meeting of the International Olympic Committee this June in Athens.
The IOC prescribes that a host city must provide facilities for at least 15 of the 21 sports recognized by it. Japan originally said it would be happy to put on all 21 events, and in Rome last year succeeded in adding still another: judo. But the list may be cut to 18 or 20. Japan wants to keep judo and is anxious to include volleyball and soccer, which are popular in Asian countries. "I'm afraid we don't have much interest in canoeing," one spokesman for the organizing committee confided. The Japanese seem coolest of all to the modern pentathlon, but they can expect militant opposition on this score at Athens.
An elderly, silver-haired ballet choreographer named Michio Ito has been placed in charge of the opening-and closing-day ceremonies. His most fanciful plan, unfortunately, is running afoul of cold war politics. Ito, who see; no romance at all in bringing the Olympic torch from Athens to Tokyo via airplane, wants it carried instead by relay runners over Central Asia's famous Silk Road. This is the route the Khans' Mongolian hordes traveled when they invaded Europe and Marco Polo used when he trekked from Venice to Peking.
The trouble with the Silk Road is that it goes across a great swatch of Red China, and that involves the annual struggle for Olympic recognition between the Communist and Nationalist Chinese. Presumably Red China would be more than willing to accommodate the Japanese if the IOC would only drop Formosa from Olympic membership.
With three years to go, the Japanese have not given up hope that the Silk Road, which will be 7,000 miles long and take a year to cover, will become a reality. But whether the torch comes by air or across the China Sea, runners will take it the last few miles through Tokyo to the Olympic stadium. There was a time when some thought the very last runner should be a hurdler fully able to bound from rooftop to rooftop across a sea of floundering traffic. The Japanese plans have ended that kind of talk.