An Opening Ceremony for the history books 

In October 1964, Tokyo hosted their first Olympic Games. To celebrate, Tokyo 2020 will bring you some of the most incredible and historic moments that took place 56 years ago. In the latest part of the series, we take a look at the Opening Ceremony, which took place on this day in 1964.

By Shintaro Kano ·

It was 56 years ago to this very day (10 October 1964) when the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Olympics Games took place - the very first time the Games had been staged in an Asian city. The ceremony marked the beginning of the Games that represented the before and after of a nation that had risen from the ashes of World War II to become a major economic power.

These were also the first Olympic Games televised in colour and broadcast live, via satellite for North American and European audiences, enabling tens of thousands of people to enjoy the spectacle.

Under a magnificent blue autumn sky, the ceremony was filled with thrilling moments.

“Preparations for the Ceremony were completed at 1.30 p.m. and the Olympic prelude commenced promptly at 1.50 p.m. with the hoisting of the Olympic flags and those of the participating nations, on the flagstaffs surrounding the stand of the Stadium," the Official Report reads.

“To the accompaniment of electronic music, His Majesty the Emperor arrived at the Stadium and proceeded to the Royal Box, standing briefly while the national anthem of Japan was played.”

Athletes from Great Britain parade during the Tokyo 1964 Opening Ceremony

93 countries represented

One of the highlights of the ceremony was the Parade of Nations. At 2 p.m. the first delegation – Greece – walked onto the cinder track of the Olympic Stadium to the delight of the 83,000-strong crowd.

Most of the athletes were dressed in ordinary uniforms; the African delegations were wearing their traditional dress, and the German, American and Soviet Union delegations were notable for their size, with the USA and USSR entering the stadium one after the other (in alphabetical order). The Japanese delegation, wearing entirely red, came in last to thunderous applause.

In total, some 5,700 athletes and officials lined up on the grass in the centre of the stadium, representing 93 nations with 16 countries making their first Olympic appearance.

Standing on a white podium opposite the official stand, President of the Tokyo 1964 Organising Committee YASUKAWA Daigoro delivered a welcoming address, and noted the International Olympic Committee was celebrating its 70th anniversary that year.

The IOC President Avery Brundage then addressed the world: “The Olympic Movement, with its 118 National Olympic Committees, has now bridged every ocean and the Olympic Games, at last, are here in Asia, proving that they belong to the entire world.”

He concluded his speech in Japanese: “I am honoured to invite His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan to declare open the Games of the XVIII Olympiad", and Emperor Hirohito officially opened the Games.

The Hiroshima Baby

The Olympic Anthem was performed as the iconic white flag with the five rings was carried into the Stadium by members of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force. The flag was then raised aloft on a 15.21m pole.

The Mayor of Rome – host city of the previous Games in 1960 – stood in front of the podium with an embroidered Olympic flag before handing it to the Governor of Tokyo. A salute of canons was fired and thousands of multi-coloured balloons were released into the sky.

Among the most memorable moments included the lighting of the Olympic cauldron as a symbolic gesture of peace and hope.

The final torchbearer was SAKAI Yoshinori, a Japanese runner born on 6 August 1945 and nicknamed the 'Hiroshima Baby', who entered the stadium carrying the flame. The athletes who had gathered on the grass dispersed to form a guard of honour.

Sakai ran up the 163 steps to the Olympic cauldron, which he lit, with a beaming smile, at 3 minutes and 3 seconds past 3 p.m.

Sakai Yoshinori runs up the steps to the Olympic Cauldron during the Tokyo 1964 Opening Ceremony

Olympic rings in the sky

Japanese artistic gymnastics star ONO Takashi, a 12-time Olympic medallist and four-time champion (between Helsinki 1952 and Rome 1960), took the Olympic oath on behalf of the athletes, after which 8,000 pigeons were released. The words “Citius, Altius, Fortius” were displayed on the state-of-the-art scoreboard that towered over the stands.

The Ceremony culminated with five jet planes flying overhead to form the shape of the Olympic rings in the autumn sky above the Stadium.

After an emotional Ceremony, two weeks of sporting action and emotion - for both Japan and the world - was underway.

IOC President Avery Brundage stands as Tokyo 1964 Organising Committee President Yasukawa Daigoro addresses the crowd