The second film of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Sensation of the Century (or Passion of the Century) is aimed at the domestic audience and gives much more attention to Japanese athletes than Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad. For example, the first footage of athletes competing (37 minutes into the film) shows a Japanese weightlifter, Yoshinobu Miyake, winning Japan’s first gold medal of the Games. Next up is freestyle wrestling, in which local wrestlers won all three of the lower weight divisions, making up for their nation’s “humiliating defeat” at the 1960 Rome Olympics. We are also shown two Japanese earning gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, thanks to help from a Turkish coach.
Sensation of the Century goes into even greater deal than Ichikawa’s version of the Torch Relay and the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony. The Flame is run through several Asian cities on its way to Japan. In Tehran, the runners are accompanied by Iranian polo players on horseback carrying polo mallets. During the Parade of Nations, we learn that eleven African nations are taking part for the first time. The Cubans enter carrying small Japanese flags. The American athletes, wearing cowboy hats, are described as “flamboyant.” As the Vietnamese athletes march into the stadium, their nation is described as “war-torn.”
The Olympic Flag is raised on a pole 15.21 meters high to commemorate the triple jump world record set by Japan’s first Olympic champion, Mikio Oda, in 1928.
Coverage of athletics is foreshortened to allow more time to cover other sports. We are told so often that this or that final was “intense” that one wonders if non-intense Olympic finals are even possible. There is a helpful explanation of modern pentathlon, both its origins and its rules. We are treated to some of the action in the team sport finals, including football, field hockey and basketball. The brief coverage of sailing is highlighted by mention of one incident. On a windy day during the Flying Dutchman event, the Australian pair of John Dawe and Ian Winter capsizes. The Swedish sailors, brothers Lars and Stig Käll, double back to help them.
In this version, using the same footage as Ichikawa’s film, we watch the final of women’s foil fencing, but this time we are informed that the winner, Ildikó Rejtő-Ujlaky of Hungary, is deaf.
The final portion of the film focuses on Japanese successes, including men’s gymnasts and Takao Sakurai, Japan’s first Olympic boxing champion. In fact, there would not be a second one until 2012.
Judo was included in the Olympic program for the first time, and winning for the Japanese was a matter of national pride. Their judokas did earn gold medals in three of the four divisions, but in the final, open class, Japanese veteran Akio Kaminaga gambles with a risky takedown move (tai-otoshi), only to have Dutch giant Anton Geesink counterattack and win the match. The film’s narrator asks if the era of skill over strength is over.
Using mostly the same footage as Ichikawa, Sensation of the Century concludes its competition coverage with the women’s volleyball final.
The Closing Ceremony is presented as a joyous affair, as the foreign athletes run into the stadium and even hoist the gentleman bearing the Japanese flag onto their shoulders and carry him around the track. The Japanese athletes are the only ones to enter as a team, with their many medalists leading the way.