As Games face coronavirus risk,
Tokyo flags chief hoists standard for perfection
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[March 19, 2020]
By Ju-min Park and Ami Miyazaki
TOKYO (Reuters) - At 79, Tadamasa
Fukiura has never lost his boyhood love of flags. But now the man in
charge of supplying more than 10,000 of them for Tokyo's 2020
Olympics has a flag obsession of a different stripe - whether the
Games will go ahead.
Doubts are mounting around the world that the Olympics can proceed
as planned amid the coronavirus pandemic, with countries in all
continents implementing drastic social and travel lockdowns. Still,
Tokyo Games and Japanese government officials insist the event will
go ahead as scheduled.
For Fukiura, whose lifelong fascination saw him asked to supervise
displays at Tokyo's 1964 Games, a call needs to be made, and soon,
on whether to proceed with meticulous preparations for over 10,000
flags representing nations around the world at this year's event.
"I think by the end of March, we have to decide whether to stop or
continue preparations for the Olympics," Fukiura told Reuters in an
Despite the coronavirus outbreak, flag manufacturing plants in Japan
are currently up and running to meet their own May deadline, Fukiura
Currently an advisor for the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the
Olympic and Paralympic Games, Fukiura describes his passion as an
"addiction" and literally wrote the book on flags of the world when
he was a 22-year-old college student at Waseda University
supervising displays at the 1964 Olympics.
At the time, there was no official policy on what shade of red
Japan's flag should have. After reviewing 2,000 lipstick colors from
cosmetics maker Shiseido, he selected the shade that would become
standard for the national flag.
Fukiura said 1964 was a defining moment of national unity for Japan,
then rising from the ashes of the World War II less than 20 years
earlier on its way to become a major economic power.
[to top of second column]
Tadamasa Fukiura, flag supervisor and consultant to Tokyo 2020
Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers, holds a Japanese national
flag after a special lecture about national flags for school
students at Koto City Ariake Nishi Gakuen in Tokyo, Japan February
10, 2020. REUTERS/Ju-min Park
"It was really exciting. Nineteen years after losing the war,
Japanese people concentrated on the Olympics," he said.
But Fukiura said organizing flags for this year's Games was as
nerve-wrecking as in 1964, involving twice as many participating
nations and sports event as well as major corporate sponsors. A fear
of mistakes, like flags being hoisted upside down, never leaves him.
He also knows what it feels like to be haunted by the prospect of a
cancellation, recalling the eve of the opening of ceremony when
sudden heavy rains threatened the historic moment.
"I was preparing for the opening ceremony for two and a half years.
I thought to myself, this rain would cancel the event," said Fukiura.
But that rain melted away, giving way to glorious sunshine, and the
spectacle of flags saluting the world, just as he had planned.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Ami Miyazaki; Additional reporting by
Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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