Tokyo Olympiad

Tokyo Olympiad (東京オリンピック, Tōkyō Orinpikku) is a 1965 Japanese documentary film directed by Kon Ichikawa which documents the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Like Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, which documented the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Ichikawa's film was considered a milestone in documentary filmmaking. However, Tokyo Olympiad keeps its focus more on the atmosphere of the games and the human side of the athletes instead of concentrating on winning and the results. It is one of the few sports documentaries included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Tokyo Olympiad
Directed byKon Ichikawa
Produced bySuketaro Taguchi[1]
Screenplay by
Narrated byIchiro Mikuni[1]
Music byToshiro Mayuzumi[1]
Edited byYoshio Ebara[1]
Organizing Committee for the Games of the XVIII Olympiad[1]
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • 20 March 1965 (1965-03-20) (Japan)
Running time
169 minutes
Box office¥1.22 billion (distribution income)[2]

Production historyEdit

The 1964 Summer Olympics were seen as vitally important to the Japanese government. Much of Japan's infrastructure had been destroyed during World War II and the Olympics were seen as a chance to re-introduce Japan to the world and show off its new modernised roads and industry as well as its burgeoning economy. Every Olympics since the first modern games in 1896 Summer Olympics had been committed to film to some extent or another, usually financed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for reasons of posterity. For the 1964 Olympics the Japanese government decided to finance their own film and initially hired Akira Kurosawa who, at the time, was the most famous Japanese director worldwide thanks to films such as Ikiru and Seven Samurai. However, Kurosawa's famous tendency for complete control - he demanded to not only direct the film but the opening and closing ceremonies as well - led to his dismissal. This led to the bringing in of Ichikawa, who had a reputation of coming into productions where events had not followed the initial plans.


Ichikawa's vision of the Tokyo Olympics was controversial at the time as it was the opposite of what the Japanese government wanted and expected of the film. Ichikawa presented a film which was very much a cinematic and artistic recording of the events, more concerned with the athletes than the events, than the journalistic, historical recording that was desired by its financiers. As a result, the Japanese Olympic Committee forced Ichikawa to re-edit the picture to better suit their requirements, with the final, re-edited, version clocking in at 93 minutes rather than the original's 170 minutes.


Tokyo Olympiad was released theatrically in Japan on 20 March 1965 where it was distributed by Toho.[1] It had a 169-minute runtime that included an intermission.[1]

The film was released in the United States by American International Pictures, Pan-World Film Exchange and Jack Douglas Enterprises with an English narration.[1] It was released on 20 October 1965 with a 93-minute runtime.[1] The film was reissued in 1984 by Janus Films and Night Kitchen, Inc. with English subtitles at a 169-minute runtime.[1]

A 125-minute cut of the film is available on Youtube via the official Olympics channel. It is titled The Complete Tokyo 1964 Olympics Film despite being nearly an hour shorter than the original release.


The film initially had a distribution income of ¥1,223,210,000 in Japanese theaters, where it drew 7.5 million admissions. It was later screened in schools and public halls, drawing a further 16 million admissions. This brought its total box office to 23.5 million admissions, setting the record for the highest-grossing film in Japan in terms of box office admissions.[2] Its record was later matched by Hayao Miyazaki's anime film Spirited Away (2001).[3]

The film is held in very high regard and is seen, alongside Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, as one of the best films about the Olympics and one of the best sports documentaries of all time. Based on 11 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 100% of critics gave the film a positive review.[4] Ichikawa was recognised by the IOC with the award of the Olympic Diploma of Merit.


It was released in North America on DVD through The Criterion Collection in 2002 but was made out of print in 2007. It would appear on eBay regularly but often at prices around $70. In the UK, it was released through Tartan Video but was also taken out of print.

In 2004, it was released on DVD in Japan through Toho. In addition to the 170-minute theatrical version, there was a 148-minute "40th Anniversary Edition", which was also considered a director's cut. This has not been made available outside of Japan.

In 2013, the official Olympic YouTube channel made a 125-minute version available in its entirety on the internet.[5]

In December 2017, The Criterion Collection issued on Blu-ray and DVD, under exclusive license from the IOC, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012, which includes Tokyo Olympiad.

Other official films of the Olympic GamesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Galbraith IV 2008, p. 218.
  2. ^ a b "特集・日本の記録". ギネスブック'84. Guinness. Kodansha. 1984. p. 452.
  3. ^ 日本新記録達成!「千と千尋の神隠し」記者会見, Toho, 2001-11-7(Internet Archive
  4. ^ "Tokyo Olympiad (1965)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
  5. ^ "The Complete Tokyo 1964 Olympics Film". Retrieved October 27, 2015.


  • Galbraith IV, Stuart (2008). The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 1461673747.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit