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History of Japan's Bids for the Olympics

1964 Tokyo Olympics and 1972 Sapporo Olympics ~The Road to Staging the Olympics in Japan~

Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics (photograph provided by AfloSport)

Following suspension of the Olympics during World War II, the 14th Olympic Games were staged in London in 1948, although Japan was not invited at this time. Japan returned to the Olympic fold from the 15th Olympic Games held in Helsinki in 1952.

In this year, Tokyo announced its candidacy to stage the 17th Olympic Games in 1960 and submitted its application to the IOC. In addition to Tokyo, six other cities applied at this time: Lausanne, Brussels, Budapest, Detroit, Mexico City and Rome. At the 50th Session of the IOC in Paris in June 1955, Rome was selected as the host city after the third ballot. Tokyo only garnered four votes in the first round of voting and finished last.

The IOC president at that time, Mr. Brundage, visited Japan in April 1955 to inspect conditions in Tokyo for staging the Olympics, and he said the following on his departure: "As staging the Games in Tokyo following the 16th Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, would be prohibitively expensive for teams from Europe, there is little chance of Tokyo being selected this time. Tokyo should aim for the 18th Olympic Games."

And so Tokyo applied once again, this time for the 18th Olympic Games. Its rivals on this occasion were Detroit, Vienna and Brussels. The vote took place at the 55th Session of the IOC in Munich in May 1959, and Tokyo won 34 out of 56 votes in the first round of voting, thereby securing the absolute majority required to become the host city for the 18th Olympic Games (1964). The Tokyo Olympiad was a great success and provided a spur for attracting the Winter Olympics to Sapporo.

Opening Ceremony of the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics

Opening Ceremony of the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics (photograph provided by AfloSport)

Sapporo actually applied to host the 10th Winter Olympics in 1968. Its rivals on that occasion were Grenoble, Calgary, Lahti, Oslo and Lake Placid. In the vote, which took place at the 61st Session of the IOC in Innsbruck in 1964, Grenoble was the eventual winner after three rounds of voting. Sapporo gained six votes to finish fourth (out of six cities) in the first round of votes. Unfortunately only the top three cities progressed to the second round of voting at this time. However, interest and support for the Olympics were boosted in Japan, and in October 1965 Sapporo submitted a new application to stage the Winter Olympics. Four cities vied to become the host city at the 64th Session of the IOC in Rome in April 1966. They were Sapporo, Banff, Lahti and Salt Lake City. Sapporo obtained 32 out of 61 votes in the first ballot, thereby winning the opportunity to stage the Games, fulfilling a dream that had been lying dormant for the past 30 years.

The Tokyo Olympics, which had been Japan's long-cherished dream, were the first Olympic Games to be staged in Asia, and the Sapporo Olympics were also the first Winter Olympic Games to be held in the region. These Games also represented the first steps towards realizing Pierre de Coubertin's dream of "hoisting the Olympic flag all over the world."

Sapporo's Bid to Host the Winter Olympics Again

In October 1977, Sapporo once again applied to stage the Olympics, this time the 14th Winter Olympics of 1984. On this occasion, its rivals were Gothenburg and Sarajevo, and the ballot was held at the 80th IOC Session in Athens in May 1978. After the first round of voting, Sapporo had 33 votes (out of 75), Sarajevo had 31 and Gothenburg had 10, while one vote was invalid. Despite growing expectations of another victory for Sapporo, Sarajevo marginally won by 39 votes to 36 in the run-off vote and became the next Olympic host.