Collection of newspaper cuttings showing various events from the 1940 East Asia Games in progress. (Image courtesy Bunzo)
Tokyo had been chosen by the International Olympic Committee as the host city for the 1940 Olympic Games after conducting an unprecedented, intensive lobbying campaign that would look familiar to contemporary mega-event strategists. The Japanese bid project won the support of a number of powerful nations accordingly, the United States, Great Britain and Germany among them, and Japan’s ambassador to Rome, Sugimura Yotaro, persauded Mussolini to drop Rome’s competing bid for the 1940 Games with a guarantee for Japanese support four years later.
Despite causing irritation by building a new stadium in Komozawa rather than as initially planned in the outer grounds of Meiji-Jingu Shrine, and on the brink of war with China, out of necessity having to cancel additional plans for the Olympic flame to travel via the ancient Silk Road and proposing the flame be flown non-stop from Germany, the country looked set to host a games for which the successful bid had brought widespread rejoicing in Japan. Coinciding with the legend of the Japanese Empire having been founded in 660BC, and hence it being the purported 2600th Anniversary of the establishment of the Empire by Jimmu, it would enable the country’s leaders to project an image of an ambitious, vibrant and modern nation, as well as the darker aspect of a highly militarist government potentially using the games as a nationalistic propaganda tool and to promote the Emperor himself.