Kon Ichikawa’s brilliant film of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics begins with the line, “The Olympics are a symbol of human aspiration”, and for me one early scene from the movie sums up the situation. A dreamy-eyed young Japanese girl is engrossed watching the Opening Ceremony, her eyes full of wonderment and fascination. That's how the Olympics were for me 57 years ago. To be inspired by the Olympics back then was not to be motivated to win bucket loads of money, but to aspire to be involved in the very highest and purest pursuit of sporting achievement. All long gone, I'm afraid.
Also long gone are many of things that were a common sight at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, including typewriters. Ichikawa’s movie includes delightful scenes from the Olivetti Press Centre (note, Press, not media). Delightful for me at least, as the footage is not just a reminder of my past life covering such international sporting events as the Olympics, but of seeing so many typewriters being put to good use by journalists. It’s the way it used to be done, and done so much more efficiently and effectively than today. It’s worth watching Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad just for the typewriters alone. Quite apart from that, the film is considered a cinematographic milestone in documentary filmmaking and is one of the few sports documentaries included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
As the journalists pound away at their typewriters in Tokyo Olympiad, I noticed that one man had a cigar clamped in his mouth and seemed to be typing one-handed. I immediately wondered whether it was the late Jack Knarr, a friend of Mike Brown of Typex fame and a man who once went up against Richard Polt in a speed typing contest (it was a close call, I believe). Jack, as I recall, typed one-handed, and also. I think, covered sports. Whether he chomped on cigars I do not know, as sadly I never got to meet him.
THINGS THAT WON’T BE SEEN AT THESE TOKYO OLYMPICS
Athletes posting real mail in real postboxes.
Athletes taking street scene photos with real cameras.
A real newsagency in the Olympic Village, with real newspapers and magazines. The Kinokuniya Bookstore.