• Olympics & Paralympics

Tokyo Games’ Opening and Closing Ceremonies to Be radically Simplified

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mansai Nomura speaks at a press conference in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

The team of directors for the opening and closing ceremonies of the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer has been disbanded as part of a new plan to simplify the ceremonies, according to an announcement Wednesday by the Games’ organizing committee.

The seven-member team had been led by kyogen actor Nomura Mansai, 54. Under the new system announced Wednesday, commercial creative director Hiroshi Sasaki, 66, will now head the ceremonies.

The team was disbanded because the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Games to make radical changes and quick decisions with the dual aims of reducing the budget and preventing infections. The whole plan of the ceremonies will be changed under Sasaki to produce ceremonies that can be done on a smaller budget and that will get across a message reflecting on the pandemic.

“It’s a great pity when I think of all the staff who have been involved in the planning, but we’ve decided to put on priority on efficiency,” Nomura said at a press conference Wednesday.

Sasaki, who was to head the Tokyo Paralympic Games’ ceremonies in the original team, was the mastermind behind then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s appearance in the guise of video game character Super Mario at the closing ceremony of the Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.

“Because of the coronavirus, new ideas will emerge. I take it as an opportunity to change the glitzy image of those ceremonies,” Sasaki said of his motivation.

Nomura was appointed as the chief director to oversee all the ceremonies in July 2018, heading the team of seven directors that also included Sasaki, musician Ringo Sheena, 42, and film director Takashi Yamazaki, 56. Yamazaki, who won the Japan Academy Film Prize for his “Always Sanchome no Yuhi” (Always: Sunset on Third Street), was to have been the team director for the Olympic Games’ ceremonies.

They had planned to stage the ceremonies based on the keywords of “peace” and “reconstruction.”

When Tokyo became the host of the 2020 Games, the budget was expected to be up to ¥9.1 billion, but it expanded as the planning became more concrete, growing to ¥13 billion by February last year.

After the Games were postponed, the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee both announced that they would simplify the Games due to the pandemic. Even so, the budget for the ceremonies was expected to increase to ¥16.5 billion due to the fee for storing props and other items for the ceremonies and the rise in personnel costs. Therefore, it became necessary to forgo glitzy staging.