Mittwoch, 2. März 2022, 18:30–20:00 PhD. Raphaël Languillon-Aussel: „From the 1930s to the 2020s: one century of Tokyo Olympics, and the foundation of a planning culture through urban great events“

OAG Tokyo Reihe

As in 1964, Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021, after one year’s postponement due to the global pandemic of COVID 19. The project is however not the second but the fourth of the history of the city: there is indeed that of 1940, canceled by the war, and that of 2016, presented to the International Olympic Committee but left apart from the competition in the face of Rio de Janeiro’s candidacy.

Tokyo 1940
Layout plan for the 1940 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Source: Candidature file, IOC archives, Lausanne

The four Olympic projects of 1940, 1964, 2016 and 2020 are representative of different historical periods of Japan and its capital. In this, they inform us about the nature of the regimes that produced them and built the city through great event planning.

The recurrence of the Games in the urban planning of Tokyo and its dynamics of growth leads to the hypothesis – very general – of a great influence of the Olympism both on the physical evolution of the urban structure but also on that, immaterial, of its urban and planning culture – or, in other words, of the representations, imaginations and practices of the institutional actors of Tokyo’s urban fabric.

Tokyo 2020 stade olympic
Olympic stadium of Tokyo 2020. Source: R. Languillon, November 11th, 2021

From a geo-historical perspective, the founding act of this Olympic urban planning culture can be traced back to the 1940 project, formalized in the 1930s in the context of a militarist planning of the Japanese capital which was then prepared at war. From there, the aim of the presentation is to question the intangible legacy left by Olympic planning on the culture of planning in Tokyo and its regular reactivation throughout the century separating the 1930s and the 2020s.

Tokyo 2020 village des athl閣es
Olympic village of Tokyo 2020. Source: R. Languillon, November 11th, 2021

Keywords: Tokyo Olympics, immaterial legacy, culture of planning, geo-history, great events.

Raphaël Languillon-Aussel holds a PhD in geography and planning. He is currently a senior researcher at the French Institute of Japanese Studies at the Maison franco-japonaise, in Tokyo, and an associate researcher at the University of Geneva. For his work on Tokyo Olympics, he received fundings from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Sciences and the Olympic Studies Center.

French Institute of Research on Japan
Researcher, languillon(at)

Bibliography – selection

  • Augustin J.-P. et Gillon P., 2004, L’Olympisme, bilan et enjeux géopolitiques, Paris, Armand Colin, 172p.
  • Collins S., 2008, The 1940 Tokyo Games: The Missing Olympics: Japan, the Asian Olympics and the Olympic Movement, Londres, Routledge, 212 p.
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  • Nomura Sōgō Kenkyūsho, 2014, 東京首都圏こう変わる!未来計画2020 (This is how the metropolis of Tokyo will change! Future plans for 2020), Tokyo, Nihon Keizai Shinbun Shuppansha, 112 p.
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Publications of the speaker – selection:
Languillon R., 2021, Le report des JO de Tokyo 2020 : des conflits d’aménagement à la crise sanitaire, Métropolitiques. URL :

Languillon R., 2018, De la renaissance urbaine des années 2000 aux Jeux Olympiques de 2020 : retour sur vingt ans d’intense spatial fix à Tokyo, Ebisu, n°55, pp. 25-58.

Languillon R., 2017, Tokyo, ville globale olympique : de l’échec du projet de 2016 au succès de la candidature de 2020, Géoconfluences. URL :

Appert M. et Languillon R., 2017, Impacts des jeux olympiques sur la recomposition des marchés immobiliers matures : le cas de Tokyo à travers ses comparaisons internationales, Rapport de recherches, Advanced Olympic Research Grants, Olympic World Library, 48 p. URL:

Languillon R., The burst bubble and the privatisation of planning in Tokyo, Metropolitics. URL :