Interest in the 1964 Olympic Games rises

JAPAN - The 1964 Olympics is back in the spotlight following Tokyo's victory in the bidding race to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, with tours of the National Stadium, the main venue of the previous Tokyo Games, increasing in popularity and interest mounting in commemorative coins, as well as a documentary about the Games.

The tour of the stadium in Shinjuku Ward, organised by the Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum, takes about 90 minutes to complete. Participants are able to see the Olympic cauldron up close and athletes' dressing rooms and VIP rooms used by Imperial family members and other notable Games attendees. Such sites are usually closed to the public.

"When I was a middle school student, I enthusiastically watched the opening ceremony [of the Games] on TV," said Yoshio Saito, 63, of Hachioji, Tokyo, who participated in one of the tours on Tuesday. "I was impressed that I could see the stadium from the same angle as I saw it [on TV] at that time."

The tours reached their capacity of 20 people that day, with participants having their photo taken near the Olympic cauldron and sitting in spectators' seats overlooking the track.

Since Tokyo was chosen Sunday to host the 2020 Games, the museum has been inundated with inquiries about the tour, a museum official said, with reservations already fully booked for this month.

As work to dismantle the National Stadium is expected to begin next year, the number of applications for the tour has soared. To accommodate the surge in interest, the museum increased the frequency of the tours to five days a month, with three rounds each day.

Many tour applications are from young people who have no first-hand experience of the previous Tokyo Olympics, as well as parent-child pairs, according to Junko Sudo, a museum official in charge of organising the tours. "Many people say they want to see the stadium before it's demolished. Public interest in the museum appears to be growing," she said.

Meanwhile, the number of customers renting "Tokyo Olympics," a documentary about the 1964 Games, has doubled at Tsutaya video stores in central Tokyo. A branch in Sangenjaya said the DVD has been rented out for the past few days and that customers included many people in their early 20s.

"The '64 Olympics is attracting attention again, even among the younger generations. Some young people are asking when the film will be available again to rent," a shop clerk said.

Two special ¥100 (S$1.27) and ¥1,000 coins issued to commemorate the '64 Olympics have also been attracting attention. At Kennedy Stamp Club coin shop in Yotsuya, Tokyo, the coins have been selling well among people in their 60s since the bidding campaign for the 2020 Olympics accelerated six months ago. Twenty sets were sold in the first two days after Tokyo's selection was announced.

The club's President Koichiro Yazawa said, "I hope the increase in sales of the coins, which has tapered off for a long time, will pick up steam over the next seven years."