Background to the Games

The International Stoke Mandeville Games Committee were keen to continue the association with Olympic host cities following the success of the Rome 1960 Games. Hanako Watanabe, the wife of the head of the Rome bureau for the Kyodo News Agency, who attended the 1960 Games, was extremely supportive, opening the way for Dr Guttmann to approach the authorities about Tokyo hosting the 1964 Games. After the Health and Welfare Ministry approved the incorporation of the newly formed Organising Committee for the Paralympic Games in April 1963, in May, Mr Yoshisuke Kasai, Chairman of the Organising Committee, informed the International Stoke Mandeville Games Committee that they intended to host the 1964 Games.

For the first time, the British government supported para athletes, giving grants for team expenses, as they did for the Olympics.

The build-up to the Games

Logo

Logo of the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Summer Games

The white dove of peace outline was used to symbolise love. The rings not only symbolise wheelchairs as the Japanese the word for ring, ‘wa’, also means harmony. Originally the rings were laid out, like the Olympic rings, in a ‘W’ formation, but the IOC complained and the design was changed to a ‘V’, to represent the athletes’ victory in overcoming the problems in their lives.

Poster

Poster advertising the 1964 Tokyo Games

Image courtesy of I.S. Brittain

Large posters (103 x 72cm) were produced in two versions, the one above for major advertising locations in Japan and the other, all in English, for the international market. A smaller version was produced for use in shops, offices and other locations in Japan. 

Slogan

'The World United in One'

Medal design

Read about medal design in the article 'Paralympic medals and how they've evolved' here

Changes to Events

Men’s weightlifting was the only new sport added to the programme, with medals being awarded in four weight categories. In athletics track events, the wheelchair dash, slalom and relay were added for the first time, while discus was added to the field events.

Venues 

Copy of the map of the Yoyogi Paralympic Village

Image from - Brittain, I.S. (2012) From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford

  1. Oda Field
    A 400m running track in Yoyogi which was often used for training during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was named after Mikio Oda, the first Japanese Olympic gold medallist.
    Used for the opening ceremony and athletics.
  2. Yoyogi National Gymnasium
    Designed by Kenzo Tange and built for the 1964 Olympic Games.
    Used for snooker, table tennis, weightlifting.
    Spectator capacity – 13,291.
  3. Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annexe
    Designed by Kenzo Tange and built for the 1964 Olympic Games.
    Used for indoor basketball and the closing ceremony.
    Spectator capacity - 3,202
  4. Basketball (Outdoor) Venue
  5. Archery + Dartchery Venue
  6. Tokyo Metropolitan Indoor Swimming Pool
    Used for swimming.
  7. Fencing Venue

The opening ceremony

Opening ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Games Opening ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Games

The GB team enters the stadium at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games.
Image courtesy of Sally Haynes.

Held on Sunday 8th November at the Oda Field in the Olympic village some 5,000 spectators watched the Opening Ceremony. Spectators brought garlands of paper cranes, which in Japanese culture represents good luck, commonly used for sporting teams and athletes to wish them victory.

Spectators brought garlands of paper cranes to wish the athletes good luck

Spectators with garlands of paper cranes for the athletes. Image courtesy of Sally Haynes.

After His Imperial Highness Prince Akihito officially opened the Games, he, with his wife, Princess Michiko, who were the Games patrons, inspected the teams. The Japanese Minister of Welfare, the Governor of Tokyo, Mr Yoshisuke Kasai, Chairman of the Organising Committee and Dr Guttmann were also among the attending dignitaries.

His Imperial Highness Prince Akihito with his wife, Princess Michiko, who were the Games patrons, inspected the teams with Dr Guttmann

Prince Akihito, Princess Michiko and Dr Guttmann. Image courtesy of Sally Haynes

After Japanese swimmer, Shigeo Aono, took the athlete’s oath, hundreds of pigeons were released and the ceremony ended with members of the Defence Force demonstrating traditional Japanese fencing.

Traditional Japanese fencers at the Opening Ceremony

Demonstration of traditional Japanese fencing

During the Games

The Olympic Games organising committee handed the Olympic village over to the Paralympic organising committee only three days before the Games were due to begin. In that short period a significant amount of work was completed to make the village wheelchair accessible.

Swimming events competitors were taken by bus to the Tokyo Metropolitan Indoor Swimming Pool.

Footage of the competitors disembarking from the planes and being transported can be seen on the IPC website here.

As recalled by Caz Walton

There wasn’t such thing as accessible coaches or lifts onto the coach, but because we didn’t know any different, it didn’t seem as strange. Accessibility was variable in a lot of the Games that I went to until recently. In actual fact Tokyo was pretty good because the Olympic athletes were housed in bungalows and the Japanese just ramped everything.

The Medals

Hugh Stewart Mackenzie

Hugh Stewart Mackenzie's bronze medal for the table tennis mixed doubles.

The medals were made in the Occupational Therapy department attached to the National Spinal Injuries Unit at Stoke Mandeville by the engineering instructor, George Butler, and patients. The patients cut the medals from brass bars before turning and polishing them, then they were engraved by George Butler before being coated in gold, silver and bronze.

Medal statistics

The Paralympic GB team won a total of 18 gold, 23 silver and 20 bronze medals, finishing second in the medals table.

Disclaimer
Information about the earlier Paralympic Games (1960-1988) is incomplete, and often contradictory across sources, therefore final results, medal standings and derived statistics may not be accurate. The data here is taken from the IPC Historical Results Archive, which is being reviewed by the IPC.

Prominent British Paralympic athletes

  • Dick Thompson
    Having been the top British athlete at the 1960 Rome Games, where he won 4 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze in athletics and basketball, Dick went on to win 2 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze in track and field events as well as silver in wheelchair basketball in Tokyo.
  • George Swindlehurst
    George, who was left disabled by a sniper on the final day of the Second World War, won silvers in table tennis and wheelchair basketball.
  • Cyril Thomas
    Cyril, a former miner who was injured when a mine roof collapsed, represented Britain in wheelchair fencing and wheelchair basketball, winning gold in the Men's Foil Novice Individual and bronze in the Men's Epee Team events.
  • Lady Susan Masham
    Lady Susan Masham who won gold and silver in table tennis and three silvers in swimming talks about her experiences of the Games here.
  • Valerie Robertson (nee Forder)
    A member of the voluntary Scottish Paraplegic Association that led the early development of international disability wheelchair sports in Scotland, Val won gold and two silvers in swimming, silver in archery and bronze in both athletics and fencing, at this, her first, Paralympic Games. In recognition of her all-round performance she was awarded Disabled Sportsperson of the Year by the Sports Writers Association.
  • Caz Walton (nee Bryant)
    Caz (Carol) won two golds in track events, Britain's first-ever gold in track. At just 17 years old, one of the youngest members of the squad, she had only been called up about three weeks before the Games when another competitor fell ill. Interviews with Caz can be found here.

Media coverage at the event

Although the Organising Committee was concerned that it might be difficult to create media interest, Japanese local and national, radio and television press, provided intense coverage. Some 700 reporters from across Japan, covered the Games, unlike today they worked and slept in the Athletes’ Village. However, coverage further afield was extremely limited.

The closing ceremony

The Closing Ceremony, at the National Gymnasium Annexe, drew a capacity crowd of 5,000, including the Crown Prince and Princess, Dr Guttmann, a representative of the Prime Minister of Japan, the Minister of Health and the Governor of Tokyo to the National Gymnasium.

As the 1968 Games were scheduled to be hosted in Mexico City, the flag was officially handed over to Dr Leonardo Ruiz, the representative of the Mexican Organising Committee.

(However, in 1966, the Mexican government decided against hosting them, citing technical difficulties. Subsequently, an offer from the Israeli government to host them was accepted and the 1968 Games were actually held at Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv.)

The Games were officially declared closed by Mr Hirokuni Dazai, Vice-Chairman of the Organising Committee and the athletes left the arena to Auld Lang Syne.

A Foreign Office report, which includes impressions of the Games documented by Dr Guttmann, can accessed through the National Archives - FO 371/181107 https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C2938565.  

Memories of the Tokyo 1964 Games

Personal experiences from other GB para athletes who took part:

References

  • https://www.paralympic.org/video/transport-and-accessibility-tokyo-1964-paralympic-games
  • https://www.paralympic.org/news/big-read-looking-back-ceremonies-1964-and-2012
  • https://theolympians.co/2017/11/09/the-1964-tokyo-paralympic-games-part-2-the-amazing-story-how-the-paralympic-movement-in-japan-went-from-zero-awareness-to-international-ready-in-four-years/
  • https://www.paralympic.org/news/twenty-facts-about-tokyo-1964-and-2020-paralympics
  • https://www.bbc.com/timelines/zcmgv4j
  • https://www.archdaily.com/109138/ad-classics-yoyogi-national-gymnasium-kenzo-tange
  • https://www.insidethegames.biz/history/paralympics/1968-tel-aviv
  • https://theolympians.co/2015/12/17/mikio-oda-the-first-japanese-olympic-champion/
  • https://www.jpnsport.go.jp/yoyogi/sisetu/tabid/278/Default.aspx
  • https://www.scottishdisabilitysport.com/valerie-robertson/
  • https://www.macclesfield-live.co.uk/news/local-news/paralympian-hailed-greatest-2531401
  • Brittain, I.S. (2012) From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A History of the Summer Paralympic Games. Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing.