When athletes take their place on the podium at Tokyo 2020, there are three people who's creative work will be presented to billions of people watching around the world.
TOKOLO Asao, SATO Naoki and YAMAGUCHI Sodai are the trio behind the podiums, theme music and costumes to be used during the victory ceremonies at the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.
They spoke to Tokyo 2020 about their historic involvement with the Games, with just 50 days remaining until the Opening Ceremony.
Podiums and emblem designer: TOKOLO Asao
For the first time in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games - and based on the sustainability concept of Tokyo 2020, 'Be better, together - for the planet and the people' - the podiums used in the victory ceremonies will be produced out of recycled plastic.
How did you come up with the podium design?
"The podium design originates from the Tokyo 2020 emblems [which Tokolo also designed], which are based on the shape of diamonds. By modifying the three types of rectangles that formed the basic components of the emblems, I created different shapes and patterns. Whereas the emblems aimed at forming a dodecagon, or a 12-sided polygon, that looked like a circle, the podium was created by laying out cubes and cuboids produced by reconfiguring the dodecagon. It didn’t take long to come up with the design because I had been making plans to create a three-dimensional version of the emblems."
What is special about your idea?
"By studying the material composition, filler, and other elements, we produced a colour that could not have been achieved with print. The podium looks different depending on the amount of light shed on it, so we’re looking forward to seeing how it will look near a swimming pool where light reflects against the water, or outdoors such as at the Equestrian Park."
The podium will be one of the legacies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. What are your thoughts about this?
"The underlying philosophy was to create something we would want to keep instead of throwing away as rubbish. Each cube comprising the podium weighs about 1.5kg, light enough for a child to hold. Parts of the podium can be kept and displayed at home, perhaps be put on display at embassies, or presented as memorabilia later on."
Composer: SATO Naoki
SATO Naoki composed the music for the Olympic and Paralympic Games victory ceremonies that will be played when medallists take their place on the podium. Sato, a decorated composer, has created numerous pieces of music for TV dramas and films, but composing for a victory ceremony was a new experience for him.
How did you feel when you received the commission? How was the process of composition?
"I’ve always loved sports. Whenever the Olympic Games were held, I would have the TV on all day and cheer the athletes on... I felt exhilarated and greatly honoured to be able to contribute to the rare occasion where music meets sports.
"Before composing the music, I listened to the victory ceremony music used at past summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Many of the pieces featured musical instruments and melodies symbolic of the host country, which was fascinating. However, I decided not to employ any elements distinctive to Japan. My composition has turned out to be the most traditional of all the music used in victory ceremonies at recent Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Why did you decide not to employ any distinctly Japanese features?
"The answer to that question is, "because victory ceremonies are for athletes from around the world." Athletes of diverse cultures, languages and aspirations stand on the podium, so I considered that music with prominent Japanese features would get in the way of the ceremonious moment. I didn’t want athletes from any country to feel at odds with the sound they hear, so I intentionally avoided all Japanese elements and composed music with which all athletes, regardless of where they are from, would feel at ease when rising to the podium."
When did you record the music?
"As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were postponed, the recording was also put off from the spring of 2020 to September 2020, when the number of new COVID-19 cases was relatively low. The recording was conducted with a full orchestra and a choir, and performed with meticulous care to prevent the spread of infection. I wanted the music to exude a sense of scale that befitted a ‘song of commendation’ for athletes, but we couldn’t assemble the entire group of musicians all at once, so we performed section-by-section to ultimately create a sound of an orchestra comprising more than 250 members."
READ MORE: SATO Naoki: Meet the composer of the Tokyo 2020 Games victory ceremony music (English only)
Costume designer: YAMAGUCHI Sodai
YAMAGUCHI Sodai designed the costumes that will be worn by the medal bearers and those escorting the athletes during the victory ceremony. Yamaguchi is an up-and-coming fashion director who has worked on numerous fashion shows, exhibitions and shop designs. He spoke to Tokyo 2020 about his passion towards this grand project.
In the spring of 2019, applications were open for the public to design the volunteer’s costume to be worn during the victory ceremony. When you started to work on the design, what did you decide on first?
"I decided on the concept, ‘a new style in formal wear’, at the very beginning. I have respect for tradition, but I was also struggling with the thought that maybe carrying on a tradition isn’t enough. So I decided to take on a new challenge while embracing kimonos and traditional Japanese attire."
And the result was a new formal wear design that also has a sense of affinity.
"I tried mixing the good things about ‘Japanese sentiment’ and ‘western practicality’. Japanese and western clothing has a significantly different design. Western clothing is worn on the muscles and meat of the body, so the pattern follows the curves of a person. It fits nicely and is therefore practical. On the other hand, Japanese clothing is worn on the bones. It is supported by the shoulders, then tied around the waist and supported again, so there’s a space between the body and the clothing... I thought it would be nice to create a Japanese and western crossover style, mixing the good qualities of both."
What approach did you take when you were designing the costume for the victory ceremony?
"I first thought that as ‘Japan’s finest quality formal wear’, the costume should leave an impression of a ‘junihitoe’ (a twelve-layered ceremonial kimono). However, it’s hot, heavy and difficult to move when you layer material, and it’s not very practical. You have to consider that the victory ceremony would be taking place in the middle of the summer under the scorching sun. The costume should also be comfortable to wear for all Field Cast members, who are volunteers from different age groups and gender. My approach was to connect all kinds of purposes to merge practicality with Japanese impressions."
The colour of the ‘uchiginu’ (inner wear) is in a gradation of white to indigo. Each piece was dyed individually?
"Yes. I wanted to express how each person is unique, and I contemplated how this differentiation could be achieved within the common format of ‘formal wear’. I arrived at the idea of using colour gradation. Each piece ended up with a different colouring, and lined up together they all have a unique look."