The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Thursday stepped back in time to look at the hockey competition at Tokyo 1964, when Japan’s magnificent capital city hosted the first Olympic Games to take place in Asia.
On 23 July 2021, exactly one year from today, the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which was due to begin this coming Friday but was postponed due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic will finally begin, with the hockey competitions set to start a day later, on Saturday 24 July, the FIH said in a press release.
It was also the first Olympiad to feature Judo and Volleyball, two sports popular in Japan, and where future boxing world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier won gold despite competing with a broken thumb. Poignantly, the honour of lighting the Olympic flame was given to Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, the same day that an atomic bomb was dropped on that city.
By the time of Tokyo 1964, the sport of hockey very much a fixture of the Olympic programme. The sport was making its tenth Olympic appearance and eighth in succession, having featured at every Games since 1928, an unbroken run that continues to this day. At the time still just a men’s competition women’s hockey eventually debuted at Moscow 1980 hockey was one of 19 different sports to feature at Tokyo 1964, with 226 athletes representing the 15 different nations that were all targeting a place on the podium.
The competition was played in three specially constructed hockey arenas in the Komazawa Olympic Park and marked the first time since Antwerp 1920 that all of the Olympic hockey matches took place at a single location. It provided the perfect setting for a superb event that would end with a dream final contested between two of hockey’s fiercest rivals, India and Pakistan.
Four years earlier, at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games, Pakistan ended India’s run of six successive Olympic gold medals. Before suffering that 1-0 defeat to the Green Shirts, India had won every Olympic hockey competition played since Antwerp 1928. Having lost against India in the final of the Melbourne 1956 Games, the triumph of 1960 was a hugely significant moment for Pakistan hockey, and they arrived in Tokyo determined to defend their title against an Indian team looking to reclaim their place at the summit of the sport.
It came as little surprise that both teams finished top of their respective groups to reach the semi-finals. In Group A, Pakistan stormed to six wins out of six, scoring 17 goals and conceding just three as they saw off the challenges of Australia who finished second, also reaching the semi-finals Kenya, Japan, Great Britain, Rhodesia and New Zealand.