New director picked for ‘restrained’ Tokyo Olympic ceremonies

Source: AFP Published: 2020/12/23 18:38:40

Organizers of the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games said Wednesday they have picked a new creative director to redesign "simpler and more restrained" opening and closing ceremonies for the 2021 Games.

Hiroshi Sasaki at press conference on Opening Ceremony and Closing Ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game, in Tokyo, Japan on July 31, 2018 Photo: VCG

The mammoth task will fall to advertising executive Hiroshi Sasaki, who helped produce the ceremony handing over the Games from Rio to Tokyo - famously featuring then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a character from the Super Mario video game.

Organizers 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," organizers said in a statement.

Sasaki replaces a team led by Mansai Nomura, a master of traditional Kyogen comic theater who had pledged to produce ceremonies "rich in Japanese spirit."

Sasaki designed the stripped-back event organizers held in July to mark the new 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 organizers said was reflective of the principles that would guide the redesigned ceremonies. "It is appropriate to make ceremonial events and programs simpler and have them in some way reflect and respect the world's experience of the COVID-19 pandemic," they said.

Speaking to reporters, Sasaki said he still remembered watching as a child the opening ceremony for the 1964 Olympic Games, 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.

He conceded that he has not made much progress yet on the direction of the new ceremonies, but said they would emphasize the theme of the Games serving as the "light at the end of the tunnel" after the pandemic.


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