Critiquing the Olympic documentary: Kon Ichikawa's Tokyo Olympiad

Ian Mcdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tokyo Olympiad is not only a cinematically accomplished documentary film, but also presents a highly insightful critique of Olympism and its limitations. In critiquing the production and politics of the film, I argue that Tokyo Olympiad ought to be seen as an expressive or 'poetic' documentary film in which Ichikawa, the humanist filmmaker, captures the complex and contradictory nature of humanism in the Olympic Games. By highlighting Ichikawa's decidedly ambivalent perspective on the spirit of Olympism, I extend previous critiques that posit Tokyo Olympiad as the saviour of the true spirit of Olympism from its fascistic rendering in Riefenstahl's Olympia. In so doing, my analysis points to the contrast between the sentimental and hackneyed treatments of sport often found in the media coverage of the Olympics, and the subtle profound examination of the banality and heroism of sport in Ichikawa's Tokyo Olympiad.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-310
Number of pages13
JournalSport in Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008


  • film
  • olympiad
  • critique of Olympism
  • documentary


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