Olympic Heritage Paralympic Legacy exhibition

Anton Geesink
Image: ©1964 / Comité International Olympique

The Online Tour of this exhibition is available on our Youtube Channel!

About the exhibition

This exhibition is based on the fundamental principle of Olympism that “the practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” (link)

We show you two expressions of this principle. First of all, through the figure of Anton Geesink who won the Gold Medal in the open division of Judo at the Nippon Budokan on 23 October 1964. The respect that he showed to his opponent upon his victory is acknowledged as the embodiment of the Olympic spirit. Geesink has been a friend of Japan throughout his life and has also been a guest at this residence many times. He welcomes you here in that same suite of the legendary match – back in Japan for the first time in 57 years. Geesink was a Game Changer: his victory contributed to the international acceptance of Judo and as an Olympic discipline.

The second expression is the social legacy project Game Changer which promotes a better integration of people with an impairment through knowledge exchange between Dutch experts and Japanese sports clubs, schools and local governmental bodies in Tokyo. The Game Changer project has been focused on the practice of sport as a human right and that everyone, regardless of their disposition, must have the possibility of practicing sport. The embassy is proud to have been involved in this meaningful project from the beginning.

Although the enduring pandemic does not allow us to invite you to come and see the exhibition, we hope that this online information will spark a small flame of the Olympic and Paralympic spirit in you which you can pass on to others. In closing, we would like to thank the NOC*NSF for their support in realizing this exhibition.

The Footprint of Anton Geesink

Judo made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Being the birthplace of the sport, this attracted a lot of attention, and set the stage for Japan to show the world its national pride. Living up to the expectations, Japan won gold medals in all divisions: lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight. That left only the open category to be competed over. At the time, the open category was the most prestigious within the whole field of judo. It was a greatly anticipated match. The match of the century, some would argue. On the 23rd of October, on the last day of the competition, the Judo Open Category final was held at the Nippon Budokan Hall.

Anton Geesink from the Netherlands was the first to enter. Geesink, a 30-year-old 198 cm tall, 120 kg giant, and world champion, had steadily won his way through the tournament. His opponent was Akio Kaminaga, the All-Japan Judo Championship winner who had advanced his way through a consolation match. The size difference between the two was obvious. Yet Kaminaga was a star in the Japanese judo world, an icon of the so-called Kamikuma era together with Isao Inokuma, and was thought to be a fitting adversary for Geesink.

The final started as Princess Beatrix of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Crown Prince of Japan watched on in the audience. Some thought that Geesink, who had defeated Kaminaga in the preliminary round, also had the mental
advantage. Geesink was an imposing athlete, but then again strength alone is not enough to win in judo. Spirit, technique, and strength needs to be in harmony, and Kaminaga also seemed promising. Yet the match took an unexpected turn.
Kaminaga’s attempt to apply a technique was crushed by Geesink who locked him in a 30-second Kesa-gatame mat hold, with Kaminaga trying his best to escape. After nine minutes and twenty two seconds, Geesink won the gold medal by scoring ippon with Kesa-gatame. It is said that the hall was completely silent. This was the moment when Japanese judo became a world sport, and it is a story that has been passed down from generation to generation.

But Geesink’s legacy is not limited to his victory. When he won the match, he immediately raised his hand, sternly gesturing to halt a joyous Dutch official from running onto the tatami mat. Despite the greatness of the event, Geesink did not lose his composure and dignity. People were impressed, witnessing a true gold medalist, an athlete precisely in possession of judo’s balance of spirit, technique, and physical strength.

As a centerpiece for this exhibition we are proud to be able to present the judo uniform worn by Anton Geesink at that historical moment. It is an especially rare occasion, as this is the first time it returns to Japan after the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Geesink’s victory combined with his deep possession of the Japanese principles of judo give us an opportunity to think about the internationalization of sports, and a true sense of understanding across borders.

Game Changer, Edogawa-ku
Image: ©NOC*NSF / JSC

Social Change through Paralympic Sports

NOC*NSF has the ambition to contribute to a long lasting social legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the host cities of the Games. After completing a successful project in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 NOC*NSF launched its next social project, the so-called Game Changer project, for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Through the Game Changer project NOC*NSF supports the integration of people with an impairment in the Japanese society. The Game Changer project is endorsed and supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Japan.

Better integration of people with an impairment is one of the main objectives of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the Japanese government for the 2020 Games. In the last few decades NOC*NSF and sports organization have gained a lot of experience in the field of Paralympics and sport for people with an impairment. Sports, by all means, is an excellent way to give people with an impairment self-confidence, to facilitate their integration in society as well as to strengthen and enhance the contact between individuals with and without an impairment. NOC*NSF is pleased to share this experience and knowledge with Japan and, therefore, NOC*NSF has decided to put the integration of disabled people at the heart of its social project.

Since 2017, at least twice a year, Dutch experts share their knowledge and experience with regards to sport for people with an impairment with sports clubs, schools and local governmental bodies in Tokyo. The knowledge transfer focuses on the strengthening of these organizations, so as to enable these organizations to offer, realize and independently implement a sports program for individuals with an impairment in the future. In addition Dutch Paralympic athletes travel regularly to Tokyo in order to inspire and motivate people with an impairment, their families, teachers, coaches et cetera with their personal stories, their passion and their Paralympic or Olympic accomplishments.

In the Game Changer project, NOC*NSF closely cooperates with the Japan Sport Council (JSC), the Dutch Embassy in Japan and three Tokyo districts: Edogawa City, Nishitokyo City and Adachi City. Due to the postponement of the Tokyo Games the project has been extended and will run until March 2022. During COVID-19 travel restrictions in the Netherlands and Japan the Game Changer project will continue remotely through online workshops and meetings.

Anton Geesink Commemorative Silver Coin
Image: ©Ryuichiro Suzuki
Minted by the Royal Mint of the Netherlands

Anton Geesink Commemorative Silver Coin (5 Euro)

The Anton Geesink commemorative silver coin was designed by artist Malin Persson, who was inspired by the relationship between judo and Japan. The obverse is engraved with the bearded figure of King Willem-Alexander. The design encircling the king is the symbol of the Kodokan, the first ever judo school to be founded in Tokyo in 1882. On the reverse, Anton Geesink is shown during his victory at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, reminding us of the famous scene where he held down Kaminaga in full concentration. The 20 large and small circles around Geesink represent the 20 seconds in which Geesink had to hold down the opponent in order to win the game as well as the image of the rising sun, inspired by Japan, the "Land of the Rising Sun.”

Noël van 't End's Silver Proof Medal
The obverse of the Noël van 't End's medal features a portrait of the young hero of Dutch judo. If you turn the issue around, you will see the front of the judo uniform with a different polish on each side. This symbolizes the colored judo uniform invented by Geesink to make the match easier to follow by the referee and the audience. You also see two judokas bow as a sign of respect for each other.

Organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
With the cooperation of NOC*NSF
Exhibition coordinator: Miho Shimizu
Exhibition advisor: Yasumitsu Takai
Exhibition design: Masayuki Kishimoto
Design: Kiyonao Suzuki
Translation: Satoshi Ikeda,
Karin Kuwahara (So Communications),
Jaime Humphreys
Subtitle and slideshow: Kohei Matsumura
Photography: Ryuichiro Suzuki

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of the following people for their generous contributions in realizing this exhibition.
Bernard Hilgers (NOC*NSF)
Jun Kubota (Japan Sport Council)
Hans Brinckmann
Erik Plomp (The Utrecht Archives)