Restrained Tokyo ceremonies
TOKYO • The organisers of the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics yesterday said they have picked a new creative director to redesign “simpler and more restrained” opening and closing ceremonies for next year’s Games.
The mammoth task will fall to advertising executive Hiroshi Sasaki, who helped produce the Games’ handing-over ceremony from Rio de Janeiro in 2016 to Tokyo – famously featuring then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a character from the Super Mario video game.
The organisers said the decision to replace a previous seven-person creative team would improve efficiency, as they reshape the traditionally lavish and spectacular ceremonies to be “in tune with the situation”.
“The ceremonies will still be a great celebration to be enjoyed by the athletes and watching world but will likely take a simpler and more restrained approach designed to reflect the overall simplification of the Games and the potential need to still consider Covid-19 countermeasures,” an official statement read.
The team led by Sasaki replaces one led by Mansai Nomura, a master of traditional Kyogen comic theatre who had pledged to produce ceremonies “rich in Japanese spirit”.
Sasaki had designed the stripped-back event held in July to mark the one year to go until the postponed Games.
That saw Japanese swimmer and leukaemia survivor Rikako Ikee appear in a darkened and empty stadium clutching the Olympic flame in a lantern, which the organisers claimed was reflective of the principles that would guide the redesigned ceremonies.
Speaking to reporters, Sasaki said he still remembered watching as a child the opening ceremony for the 1964 Olympics, the first time Tokyo hosted the Summer Games, and had enjoyed the traditionally lavish events opening and closing the sporting event.
“But now these flashy extravagant ceremonies are considered as too much and we must think of this time as an opportunity to change due to Covid-19, or rather thanks to Covid-19,” he said.
Sasaki admitted that he had yet to develop the direction of the new ceremonies as “conditions are tough”, but revealed they would emphasise the theme of the Games serving as the “light at the end of the tunnel” after the pandemic.
The organisers are pressing ahead with preparations for the postponed Games, announcing a new budget, test-event schedule and coronavirus countermeasures in recent weeks.
But public opinion in Japan remains opposed to holding the event next year, with a majority favouring a further delay or outright cancellation.
The organisers announced yesterday that they have received requests for refunds of around 200,000 tickets for Paralympic events sold in Japan, about 21 per cent of the total.
Earlier this month, they announced refund requests for around 18 per cent of tickets sold domestically for Olympic events.
Fans who bought tickets overseas have to apply separately for refunds in their countries, and no figures for those have been made available.
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