The 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony featured a variety of video game music – including tracks from Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Sonic the Hedgehog – but an editor was missing from the lineup. Where was nintendo According to leaked documents, there appear to have once been plans for the publisher to be more involved in the opening ceremony, with Nintendo songs in the soundtrack and various Mario-themed gadgets.
The news comes through Japanese media company Shukan Bunshun, which has received several documents for the opening ceremony from April 2020 to July this year. Under these plans, the event would have featured performances inspired by the “8-bit world of video games,” including Super Mario and Space Invaders, overseen by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto.
A composition plan dated October 4, 2020 included a proposal that would have seen the return of the warp pipes from the closing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics … with a twist. One graphic shows Lady Gaga entering a pipe, only to reappear as comedian Naomi Watanabe (with a blonde wig and red cap).
Meanwhile, a music list from June 16, 2021 contained five Nintendo songs that never made it to the event. The main theme of The Legend of Zelda, the opening of Pokémon and tracks from Super Mario Bros. were apparently intended to be played during the athletes’ march.
Shukan Bunshun also reports that Miyamoto has at some point attended meetings about the opening ceremony and that Nintendo should oversee the show. In the end, all of the music was removed – and Nintendo wasn’t present at the closing ceremony. Shukan Bunshun suggests that hacking and changing previously arranged ceremony content could have affected Nintendo.
As stated by the Japan Times [paywall], the original proposal sent to the IOC (and leaked to Shukan Bunshun), detailed plans for the opening ceremony to celebrate Japanese pop culture, with the Akira bike, riffs on “Neo Tokyo” and dancers in uniforms, to represent different train stations. The IOC reportedly liked the plans of choreographer Mikiko Mizuno and her team, but thanks to Covid-19 and a string of public relations disasters, things started to fall apart. Due to the year delay caused by the pandemic, a new creative director named Hiroshi Sasaki was brought on board in December 2020. Sasaki reportedly removed much of the content and sidelined Mizuno, who subsequently left the team along with several other members. In the spring of 2021, Sasaki was at the center of a scandal because he had proposed dressing Watanabe as “Olympian”, whereupon he resigned from his office.
The problems didn’t stop there: on July 20, musician Keigo Oyamada resigned as composer for the ceremony after an interview surfaced in which he bragged about abuse of classmates with disabilities. Then last week, a day before the ceremony, show director Kentaro Kobayashi resigned after a skit re-surfaced on the Internet in which he made a Holocaust joke. And all after the head of the Tokyo Games Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, resigned in February over sexist statements.
The games themselves weren’t exactly popular in Japan either. Many Japanese believe that hosting the Games during a pandemic is dangerous to public health and too expensive to host – all for an event that spectators cannot attend. A poll by Asahi Shimbun found that 55 percent of those polled did not want the games to take place, and protesters gathered outside the stadium during the opening ceremony to request their cancellation.
With this combination of scandals and controversy over whether the games should even take place, it may come as no surprise that Nintendo put them on hold.