A 1965 Japanese documentary film directed by Kon Ichikawa, which documents the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, considered as one of the best films about the Olympics and, indeed, as one of the best sports documentaries of all time.
In the early 60s, the 1964 Summer Olympics were seen as vitally important to the Japanese government. In fact, much of Japan’s infrastructure had been destroyed during World War II and the country wanted to show off its new modernised infrastructures as well as its expanding economy, to re-introduce the country to the world. The Japanese government decided thus to finance their own film about the Olympics and initially hired Akira Kurosawa who, at the time, was the most famous Japanese director worldwide; however due to his famous tendency for complete control led to his dismissal and the bringing in of Ichikawa.
Kon Ichikawa hired a team composed of 164 assistants, with more than 100 cameras and nearly 250 lenses, and decided to focus more on the atmosphere of the games and the humanity of the athletes. Showing the physical effort, excitement, joy of victory and disappointment of defeat, rather than simply the recording of results, was seen as highly original, but the opposite of what the Japanese government expected of the film. As a result, the Japanese Olympic Committee forced him 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 165 minutes. All the same, when released in Japan on 20 March 1965, Tokyo Olympiad reached a total of 23.5 million viewers, setting the record for the highest-grossing film in Japan in terms of box office admissions at the time. Ichikawa’s special use of zoom lenses and close-ups also set a new standard for the filming of sports, still relevant today.