Philip Barker

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session here in Tokyo next week is set to be the first held face-to-face since early 2020.

It will be the fourth held in the Japanese capital, however.

The first should have been in 1940 to coincide with the planned Summer Olympics in the city.

Military and political pressure forced the capital to withdraw, however, and the 1940 Games never took place.

After the Second World War, Japan was not allowed to take part in the Olympics until 1952, but Dr. Ryotaro Azuma, a physician who was Japanese Olympic Committee President, became an IOC member and set about rebuilding bridges.

During the 1956 Session in Melbourne, Azuma invited the meeting to Tokyo in 1958.

Dublin, Barcelona, Tangier, Nairobi, Beirut, Munich, Copenhagen, London and Los Angeles had also been keen to welcome the IOC, but 1952 organising chief Erik Von Frenckell recommended Tokyo and this was accepted "by acclamation".

Prince Gholam Reza Pahlavi of Iran asked that it be arranged to precede the 1958 Asian Games, also to be held in the city.

"Since distances are great and there are many members who will want to attend both events without making two journeys," he said.

Tokyo was initially due to hold an IOC Session before the 1940 Olympics, which were cancelled ©Getty Images
Tokyo was initially due to hold an IOC Session before the 1940 Olympics, which were cancelled ©Getty Images

Von Frenckell visited Japan on his way back from Melbourne. "He had been a strong supporter of Tokyo and offered much constructive advice," officials said. Azuma was put in charge of organisational matters.

"The coming meeting is extremely important for Japan as it will greatly affect Tokyo's hopes for gaining the 1964 Olympic Games," said the Japan Times.

More than 30 wives and daughters from Japan's diplomatic set were drafted in as guides, interpreters or secretaries during the Session.

"Most of them have been abroad and are expected to be at home amongst foreigners," it was said.

It was reported that Miriko Mishima was assigned to IOC President Avery Brundage, because she spoke French and English. 

She was also the daughter in law of former sprinter Yahiko Mishima, who was a member of Japan's first Olympic team in 1912.

The Session was opened by Emperor Hirohito himself.

"I desire to extend my cordial welcome to the President and members of the International Olympic Committee who have come long ways overseas to Tokyo," he said.

"Your deliberations, I hope, will serve to enhance further the Olympic spirit in consonance with its glorious tradition and lofty ideal."

Tokyo was awarded the 1964 Summer Olympics shortly after impressing the IOC by staging the 1958 Session ©Getty Images
Tokyo was awarded the 1964 Summer Olympics shortly after impressing the IOC by staging the 1958 Session ©Getty Images

The Session also included a musical surprise.

A new Olympic hymn had recently been chosen after a widely publicised contest, but copyright difficulties with composer Michael Spisak had prompted the IOC to look elsewhere.

Azuma made contact with Greek IOC member Ioannis Ketseas, in search of the music for the Olympic hymn performed in Athens at the first modern Olympics in 1896.

"Somehow or other, Ketseas uncovered the score and sent it to Japan," Azuma said.

The Japan Broadcasting Corporation arranged for it to be performed by an orchestra with a mixed chorus. 

The noted poet Akira Nogami wrote new lyrics in Japanese.

"The members of the IOC who were present were deeply impressed with the hymn," said Azuma.

At the insistence of Prince Axel of Denmark, it was adopted and has been played ever since at every major Olympic occasion.

The 1958 Session did not elect a host city but still made important decisions, including the removal of bobsleigh from the programme for the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.

When it ended, Brundage told media: "Looking into the future, when interest in the Olympic Games is constantly growing, we must place a limit somewhere on the number of entries. 

Former IOC President Avery Brundage was heavily involved in two Sessions in Tokyo  ©Getty Images
Former IOC President Avery Brundage was heavily involved in two Sessions in Tokyo  ©Getty Images

"Building a Village for example to house 10,000 athletes would be prohibitive."

The following year in Munich, Tokyo was chosen as the 1964 Olympic host city by a landslide.

This meant another Tokyo IOC Session.

"As it had been arranged that His Majesty the Emperor of Japan would honour the General Session by his presence at the Session and proclaim its opening, faultless preparations were made by mobilising the divisions of the Organising Committee," the official report read.

The Session opened with "dignified ceremony", and to the "expressed satisfaction" of all the participants", the report said.

"Never before have the Games been adopted as their own personal project by all the people of a nation of nearly 100 million," said Brundage.

As a specialist in oriental culture, Brundage no doubt enjoyed the tranquillity of a visit to the Tōdai-ji Buddhist Temple in Nara.

Yet, it was a turbulent time in the Olympic Movement. The spectre of expulsion hung over those from Indonesia and North Korea who had participated at the 1963 Games of New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), held in defiance of the IOC and some International Federations. 

The Indonesian and North Korean competitors returned home before the Games began.

IOC minutes show this was "deplored" by several delegates, including some from the Soviet bloc.

The IOC programme began with meetings between the Executive Board and National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

There were also signs of dissatisfaction with Brundage after his 12 years at the helm. Many felt he was autocratic and ignored the NOCs.

The IOC agreed to the Olympic return of tennis in Tokyo, although it took more than 20 years to finally appear ©Getty Images
The IOC agreed to the Olympic return of tennis in Tokyo, although it took more than 20 years to finally appear ©Getty Images

"He just wouldn’t listen," American compatriot Douglas Roby told Brundage's biographer Allen Guttmann. 

"He'd let them talk and then forget it."

Italian National Olympic Committee President Giulio Onesti, a new  IOC member, organised  separate meetings of NOCs.

Onesti was regarded by Brundage as a threat, but it was the Marquess of Exeter, the British peer in charge of athletics, who offered the challenge for the IOC Presidency.

The election result was recorded in the minutes as a unanimous victory for Brundage but Lord Killanin, later to become IOC President, said: "Personally I think it is a great pity that Exeter lost. 

"He could have given great service to the IOC over the next eight to 12 years."

There was also a change at head office. Chancellor Otto Mayer stood down and judo official Eric Jonas was appointed as IOC secretary.

Killanin was a dissenting voice when it was decided to ask cycling and football to form separate "amateur" federations.

The verification of amateur status, demanded by Olympic regulations, was an increasing concern, particularly for Brundage, a vehement supporter of the amateur code.

Elsewhere, the IOC rejected applications for recognition from ballroom dancing and go-karting.

They agreed to allow the return of tennis, although this would take more than 20 years to achieve.

When the IOC Session returned to Tokyo in 1990, the wording of the Olympic Charter was simplified and opened the way for all to take part.

The official IOC history insisted that "once and for all the word of the day became equality of opportunity among Olympic athletes". It spoke of a "progressive application of the eligibility code".

Tokyo 1990 was a very high profile Session which featured the 1996 host city election.

Atlanta was the first of six candidate cities to make presentations. Its delegation was led by lawyer William Porter "Billy" Payne, with former Mayor Andrew Young and incumbent mayor Maynard Jackson also involved. 

A video message from United States President George Bush Sr. supported the bid.

Athens, described in the news agencies as the "sentimental" choice as it bid to host again 100 years after the first modern Games, led the way in the first two ballots as Belgrade and Manchester were eliminated.

Atlanta was awarded the 1996 Olympics in Tokyo ©Getty Images
Atlanta was awarded the 1996 Olympics in Tokyo ©Getty Images

Melbourne was eliminated in the third round with future Olympic 400 metres champion Cathy Freeman, then only 17, a part of their team. Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper later admitted that "it was never going to be our best candidate".

Toronto also fell, leaving Athens and Atlanta in the fifth and last round.

President Juan Antonio Samaranch took the stage to announce the result, surrounded by the other IOC members.

"There was an explosion of joy from the Atlantans, and naturally deep disappointment among the others, but those are the tough rules of the game," said the official Olympic Review.

Later, Venezuelan sports administrator Flor Isava Fonseca became the first woman to be elected to the IOC Executive Board.

She thanked the members for their confidence in her and said she would continue to work for greater representation of women in sport and sports administration.

The Commission on Apartheid and Olympism, chaired by IOC vice-president Keba M'baye, reported with new urgency.

Earlier in the year, Nelson Mandela had been released from prison in South Africa.

The report quoted Samaranch. "As the IOC had been the first to close the door, it would also like to be the first to open it," he said.

This year's Session will hear updates on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

In 1990, there was a report on preparations for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.

There was also news on the progress of the Olympic Museum, a project which Samaranch supported enthusiastically.

It fell to the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, as the senior member or doyen, to make the closing speech which marked the first decade of Samaranch's Presidency.

"The world had seen considerable political changes and the Olympic Movement had found an important place in the world thanks to the influence of the IOC President," the Grand Duke said.

This year it will fall to Canadian Dick Pound to make the closing remarks.

Thomas Bach's first term as IOC President will come to an end at the Tokyo 2020 Closing Ceremony, after which his second as President will last until 2025.