IOC President draws parallels between sport and culture at “Olympic Agora”

The lively cultural hub “Olympic Agora” is on view during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, featuring a series of art installations, exhibitions and digital programmes celebrating Olympism and the Olympic values. The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, visited the Olympic Agora in central Tokyo earlier today.

IOC President Thomas Bach vists the Olympic Agora © IOC / Greg Martin

Even as the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 enter the second week of sport competition, Tokyo residents have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Olympic culture at the “Olympic Agora”, located in the host city’s central Nihonbashi district. From a large-scale medal to a permanent, site-specific legacy sculpture, the programme offers a variety of engaging and interactive elements that bring the host city residents closer to the Games.

Since its initial conception, the programme was adapted to ensure staff and visitor safety, in compliance with local and national COVID-19 rules and countermeasures. Onsite visitor numbers are limited and strictly controlled through an online pre-booking system; and installations and activations are complemented by a robust digital programme, including virtual exhibitions available on the Olympic Agora website and The Olympic Museum’s social media channels for local and global audiences.

During his visit, the IOC President viewed the various art installations, exhibits and activations that are part of the cultural programme at the Agora. This includes a photography installation by Japanese artist Rinko Kawauchi, an illuminated sculpture by Japanese artist Makoto Tojiki, an exhibition of artworks by Olympian artists and an interactive multimedia installation entitled “Podium Memories” that invites visitors to activate various images, sounds and iconic moments from Olympic history.

IOC President Thomas Bach vists the Olympic Agora © IOC / Greg Martin

About the Agora, the IOC President said: “This is a fantastic demonstration of how in the Olympic community we blend sport and culture, which is one of the missions that our founder Pierre de Coubertin gave us, and which has its roots in the ancient Games 3,000 years ago. You can experience the history and also the spirit of the Olympics in this exhibition. Even for me, having seen a number of these exhibits before, it gives me goosebumps to be reminded of the great traditions and great vision of the Olympic Games.”

The Olympic Spirit exhibition showcases 145 treasures from The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, including iconic posters, medals and torches from the annals of Olympic history. Visitors can view the original medals from Athens 1896 up close, as well as torches from down the years. Highlights of the exhibition include the vest worn by Usain Bolt during the 200m final at Beijing 2008, Kaori Icho’s wrestling suit from her triumphant Rio 2016 campaign, the bib worn by legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci at Montreal 1976 and Michael Phelps’s swimsuit from Athens 2004.

“There is a very close link between culture and sport, as these are the two languages that the whole world understands,” added IOC President Bach. “I think something that touches all of us is the Olympic spirit; that is what the Olympic Games are all about. They are about the excellence of performances of athletes, but at the same time, a great symbol of solidarity, peace and friendship.”

“These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 have a very special meaning. All Olympic Games first of all, unify the world in peaceful competition where everybody respects the same rules and everybody is equal. This is true for all editions of the Olympic Games. But for Tokyo, what makes it so special, is this signal of hope, this great message of hope that it gives to humankind. That even under the restrictions of the pandemic, you can come together.”

IOC President Thomas Bach vists the Olympic Agora IOC President Thomas Bach vists the Olympic Agora - © IOC / Greg Martin

Resulting from Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, the Olympic Agora realises a key recommendation to “further blend sport and culture” during and between editions of the Olympic Games through onsite and digital culture programmes. Spearheaded by the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage (OFCH), the IOC’s division for arts, culture and heritage, the project is inspired by the public assembly spaces – or agoras – of Ancient Greece.

“Commemorating the history and enduring cultural impact of the Olympic Movement on the world, the Olympic Agora serves as a hub for the cultivation, exploration and promotion of the Olympic values,” said Angelita Teo, Director of the OFCH.

“One of the most important things we have done through the Olympic Agora is leaving the legacy of the Olympic spirit in Tokyo. The legacy sculpture for example, is especially designed to be welcoming and inclusive for people to come up close and personal. I hope more people even after the Games will come here, take photographs and find out more about the Olympic Movement.”

“I think it’s very important that people are aware that the Olympic Games are more than the sport, they’re also about the people. By documenting the Games we are preserving that for future generations. The Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect are key.”

As the Olympic Agora’s Official Partner, Mitsui Fudosan has delivered comprehensive support to the Olympic Agora complex in Nihonbashi. 

IOC President Thomas Bach vists the Olympic Agora IOC President Thomas Bach vists the Olympic Agora - © IOC / Greg Martin

Mitsui Fudosan President and CEO Masanobu Komoda said: “Mitsui Fudosan is a Tokyo 2020 gold partner in city development. By contributing to the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games, we hope to contribute to the advancement of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, which aim to build a more peaceful and better world.”

“Against this backdrop, we are greatly honoured to be able to do our part as an Official Partner to the Olympic Agora, a cultural programme that expresses the Olympic spirit and ideals. Sport is an important source of soft power that not only contributes to mental and physical health, but creates new connections and helps build prosperous communities. We would like to leverage the opportunity presented by the Tokyo 2020 Games and the Olympic Agora to make more active use of sport as a key aspect of urban development.”

Virtual tours of all Olympic Agora presentations and related programming will be available to local and international audiences free of charge.

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