An opening ceremony so good it gave Naomi Watanabe goosebumps.

As the Olympic torch currently makes its way through the country, the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics is now barrelling full-steam ahead, with the opening ceremony set to be held, without overseas spectators, on 23 July.

However, in light of the recent resignation of Hiroshi Sasaki, the chief creative director for the Olympics and Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies–who quit after receiving backlash for suggesting plus-size celebrity Naomi Watanabe dress as a pig at the opening ceremony–there’s been some debate as to whether or not the disgraced director’s vision for the Games should go ahead as planned.

▼ Watanabe was scheduled to appear at the opening ceremony, but the suggestion she dress as an “Olympig” was never discussed directly with her.

Sasaki’s appointment to the role of chief creative director in December last year was the result of a reshuffle to streamline the planning process following the postponement of the 2020 Games. Prior to that, acclaimed Kyogen actor Nomura Mansai was in charge, leading a creative team with a different vision for the ceremonies–a production so good Watanabe sang its praises on her YouTube channel, saying “it gave me goosebumps”.

One member of the creative team was famous choreographer Mikiko, who was given the role of chief operating officer for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony. Though her proposal for the ceremony was shelved following the reshuffle, weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun–who broke news of the “Olympig” scandal that resulted in Sasaki’s resignation–has since obtained 280 pages detailing the original proposal.

▼ Mikiko (below right) has choreographed routines for big names in the music industry like Perfume.

According to Shukan Bunshun, the original plans for the ceremony were presented to the International Olympic Committee in April last year, shortly after the decision was made to postpone the event due to the growing coronavirus pandemic. The IOC was said to be delighted with the plans, and acknowledged that some mention of the pandemic would need to be made, allowing for revisions before the actual event.

The plans included an homage to the 1988 animated feature film Akira, a particularly apt reference, given that the film was set in a futuristic Neo-Tokyo in 2019, amidst a pandemic ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To have the actual Games take place in Tokyo in 2020, just as they were “predicted” in the anime some 32 years ago, is a coincidence worthy of acknowledgement in the opening ceremony, and had the original proposal gone ahead, we would’ve seen protagonist Shotaro Kaneda at the very beginning of the show, entering the stadium on his iconic red motorcycle and circling a dome-covered Neo Tokyo on the stage.

The performance was set to be enhanced by projection mapping, displaying images of Tokyo around the venue, with the words “Neo Tokyo in 2020” drawn by Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo.

A “Welcome to Neo Tokyo” performance was set to follow, featuring world-famous Japanese dancers such as Daichi Miura and Koharu Sugawara, alongside performers dressed as Tokyo Station staff.

After looking back at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Naomi Watanabe would then take the audience through the years from past to present, in front of a huge “Ready?” display as the athletes march into the stadium for a section entitled “The Last Mission”.

Then, towards the end of the ceremony, Mario from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. series would appear, jumping between two giant “lantern” screens suspended above the performance space. Below, a dance performance inspired by synchronised swimming would take place.

▼ Some of the visuals from the above-mentioned performances can be seen in the tweet below.

Unfortunately, following Sasaki’s resignation on 18 March, the President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said there wasn’t enough time to alter the current plans for the ceremony, suggesting that Sasaki’s vision for the Games would be going ahead as planned.

However, now that the original plans for the ceremony have been revealed by Shukan Bunshun, it looks likely they will stir up debate amongst the general public. A number of commenters are already saying that an opening ceremony like the one envisioned by Mikiko would be just the thing to save the Tokyo Olympics. And with all the scandals and backlash surrounding the current Games, the organisers might need to give the public what they want, especially if it’s a performance so good it gives viewers goosebumps.

Sources: Shukan Bunshun via Hachima Kikou
Images: SoraNews24
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