The Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony took place last week, featuring 19 pieces of video game music, including tracks from popular titles, like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Sonic the Hedgehog. However, while videogame music has been an omnipresent feature throughout the games and opening ceremony, Japan’s best-known video game publisher was conspicuously absent. According to the recently leaked documents, which reveal earlier plans for the event, Nintendo was supposed to be more involved with songs from its video game titles and Mario-related shenanigans. So, what happened?
According to IGN, Shukan Bunshun, a Japanese media outlet, obtained several documents for the opening ceremony, ranging from April 2020 to July 2021. The documents reveal that the event would’ve featured performances inspired by the 8-bit world of video games, with Nintendo initially collaborating on the musical and aesthetic aspects of the ceremony. Most notably, the plans for the event included five unused tracks which came from Nintendo franchises, including The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and Super Mario.
But that’s not all; one of the earlier composition plans, dated October 4, 2020, featured a proposal that would’ve seen the return of warp pipes from Super Mario video games, which were featured during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics closing ceremony – albeit with an exciting twist. Hiroshi Sasaki, the creative director on board the planning committee, included Nintendo in one section of the opening ceremony, which suggested Lady Gaga could wear a red hat and travel down a Super Mario warp pipe, only to re-emerge as comedian Naomi Watanabe sporting a blonde wig and a red hat.
There’s still no official answer to why Nintendo’s content wasn’t featured in the opening ceremony and why we didn’t get to see Lady Gaga travel down the warp pipe. According to leaked documents, the original proposal sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by Mikiko Mizuno saw the ceremony as a celebration of Japanese pop culture, focusing on video games, anime, and train stations. However, COVID-19 and a series of PR disasters took their toll on the execution of those plans, and due to the year delay caused by the pandemic, the organizers brought in Hiroshi Sasaki as the new creative director in December 2020.
Reportedly, Sasaki cut much of the content for the opening ceremony and sidelined Mizuno, who subsequently left the team with several other members. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only issue. Yoshiro Mori, head of the organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympic games, resigned in February this year for making sexist comments, followed by Sasaki’s resignation caused by a scandalous comment regarding Watanabe. Later on, towards the end of July, musician Keigo Oyamada resigned as a composer for the ceremony, after an interview surfaced in which the musician boasted about abusing classmates with disabilities. This was followed by show director Kentaro Kobayashi’s resignation after a skit surfaced online, in which he made a Holocaust Joke.
Admittedly, the Tokyo Olympics haven’t been very popular in Japan, either, which set a terrible record as a result. In addition, many Japanese people feel that holding the Games compromises public health and Japan’s economy, given that spectators can’t attend the events. With all the controversy and scandals surrounding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the lack of comments on Nintendo’s part, it’s entirely possible that Nintendo decided to sit this one out and focus more on delivering the new Nintendo Switch.