Tokyo Olympics name Hiroshi Sasaki director for ceremonies

Stephen Wade
Associated Press
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Tokyo — The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee appointed Hiroshi Sasaki on Wednesday as the head creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Paralympics.

He replaces Mansai Nomura, a well-known actor in traditional Japanese comedic theater, and also a film actor. He was in charge of the ceremonies when the Olympics were postponed in March by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hiroshi Sasaki, a former advertising executive with Japan's powerful public relations and advertising agency Dentsu, Inc., speaks during a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Nomura will remain as an adviser.

The Olympics are to open on July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

Sasaki is a former advertising executive with Japan’s powerful public relations and advertising agency Dentsu, Inc. Dentsu is the exclusive marketing agency for the Tokyo Olympics.

Sasaki was responsible for the flag handover ceremony at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He also directed the one-year countdown ceremony five months ago at the National Stadium.

“We must redo the planning from scratch,” Sasaki said, seated next to Nomura during an on-line briefing. “Rather than flashy, extravagant ceremonies, we now have a chance to change the content of the ceremonies.”

Organizers are suggesting the ceremonies will be simplified, more in keeping with the trials of the pandemic.

Sasaki was part of the creative team that was originally headed by Nomura. Nomura said he was on board with Sasaki leading the new team.

“We need to make many decision, and we need very quick decisions — efficiency, agility,” Nomura said. “It is something we should prioritize. For now, one person, Mr. Sasaki, is leading the team. I’m really in agreement with this new decision.”

Organizers said the new ceremonies would add a cost 3.5 billion yen — about $35 million — to an already swelling budget. About $130 million was originally budgeted for ceremonies.

Organizers announced a new official budget on Tuesday that represents a 22% increase from the 2019 version. Official costs are now $15.4 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion the 2019 figure of $12.6 billion.

An audit last year by the Japanese government but the actual costs closer to $25 billion.

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