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Friday , November 16 2018

Director plans Tokyo 2020 Games ceremonies ‘rich in Japanese spirit’

Paralympics will be an equal footing with Olympics

TOKYO, July 31, (Agencies): The opening and closing ceremonies at Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics Games will showcase Japan’s ancient and modern sides, the traditional theatre actor newly appointed to direct the events said Tuesday.

The appointment of Mansai Nomura, who performs in Japan’s centuries-old classical theatre and is well known domestically, may suggest the importance that the country’s traditional arts will play in the ceremonies.

But Nomura gave little away.

“I will do my utmost to produce Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies that are simple but rich in Japanese spirit,” Nomura told reporters.

“I want to show our palette holds paints of many colours,” he said, pledging to “cover the entire range, from high art to entertainment.”

The overarching concept of the ceremonies will be announced later this year, but Nomura said there would be drama.

“Quiet at times, elevated at times… I want to show big swings,” he said.

While Nomura is famed for his performances in Japan’s traditional comedy theatre, and is likely to draw on his knowledge of the country’s rich artistic heritage, he said he was also a fan of modern entertainment.

And he said he saw no barriers to combining modern and traditional art.

A fan of Michael Jackson, he compared the pop star’s famed moonwalk to “suriashi”, a technique of classical Japanese performance in which actors wearing traditional socks slide on wooden floors.

“Put the soles of your feet (on the floor) and go forward, it’s suriashi. Going backward, it’s moonwalking. What appears to be two extremes can be like two sides of a coin,” he said.

Asked whether he’d be performing himself, he quipped: “I’d moonwalk as much as people want if it pleases them. The budget for that would be zero.”

Nomura will direct the ceremonies with a team including Hiroshi Sasaki, a leading advert director who was Japan’s pointman for the handover ceremony at the end of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

He made waves with a sequence that saw Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe make a comic cameo as Nintendo video game character Super Mario.

Abe came out of a pipe in Rio after a video showed Mario tunnelling down from Tokyo into the earth to reach Brazil. But Sasaki said he wouldn’t be looking to simply reprise that performance.

“I think his simply returning from there wouldn’t live up to people’s expectations. I must do something more spectacular,” he said, giving no further details.

For all the fanfare, there will also be a sombre element to the ceremonies, paying tribute to victims of the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami and celebrating reconstruction efforts since then.

The organisers of the Tokyo 2020 opening and closing ceremonies are adamant that the Paralympics will be on an equal footing with the Olympics as they plan consistent themes and storylines across all four ceremonies.

Hiroshi Sasaki, the man behind Tokyo 2020’s startling handover performance during the closing ceremony at the Rio Games in 2016, has been tasked with designing the Paralympic ceremonies in two years’ time.

The Paralympics are due to start on Aug 25, 2020, over two weeks after the end of the Olympics on Aug 9, but Sasaki is determined to orchestrate a ceremony that keeps the Paralympics firmly in the public consciousness.

“There is something I would like to avoid, which is after the Olympics people will feel things have concluded, things have finished,” Sasaki told reporters on Tuesday.

“There will be much media attention after the Olympic Games — how were the Games, how many medals each country has won — but then I will once again be asking for your full support in also giving energy to the Paralympic Games.”

Sasaki spoke passionately about meeting para athletes, who have helped shape his understanding of their sport, and wants to design ceremonies that will highlight how ‘cool’ and ‘stylish’ they are.

“The recognition of Para sports, which is different to that of the past, is of para sports being cool,” said Sasaki.

“The key words being something cool, something stylish. This is something I would like to see. If you look at the Paralympic Games or para athletes, they are all taking on challenges, over-coming many difficulties and obstacles.”

The basic plan for the ceremonies was announced on Monday, with the proposal to position all four — the opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games — as a single entity, with one storyline running throughout.

“We have the closing ceremony of Paralympic Games that will serve as the ending, or the conclusion, of the four-part structure — introduction, development and conclusion,” explained Mansai Nomura, who will oversee all four ceremonies.

“The closing ceremony will be key in sending a message to the future.

“I think we are at a stage of transformation; that the Paralympic Games will undergo significant transformations and in two years time maybe para sports will have transformed significantly.

“That is a real possibility. In that sense, the Tokyo Games, will be a turning point.”

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