Host City: Tokyo, Japan
Date Started: October 20, 1964
Date Finished: October 20, 1964
Participants: 72 (72 men and 0 women) from 27 countries
Youngest Participant: Park Cheong-Sam (17 years, 346 days)
Oldest Participant: Orlando Madrigal (43 years, 223 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 16 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): Soviet Union and Japan (4 medals)
Judo was created in 1882 by [Jigaro Kano], who later became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Prior to 1964, it had never been on the Olympic Program. Kano made some tentative inquiries about adding judo to the program in 1928, but realized the sport was not practiced in a sufficient number of countries, and that attempt went nowhere. The International Judo Federation (IJF) was formed in 1949, but judo was not yet close to an Olympic sport, although World Championships began in 1956. In 1955, Charles Palmer (GBR), later to be president of IJF, attended the Congress of the European Judo Union and discovered that the European nations had been pressing the IOC to include judo for several years. The request was denied because the IOC did not feel that the event could be fair without weight categories, and the judo authorities had always preferred to hold only one, open class.
In 1958, Tokyo was awarded the 1964 Olympic Games. The Japanese judo authorities sent a formal request to the IOC to include judo in the program of the 1964 Olympic Games. At the 1960 IOC Session in Roma, judo was approved for the 1964 Olympic Program, although only as an “optional sport,” at the discretion of the host nation. This was not understood at the time by the judo community.
The weight class question was decided in favor of weight classes. They had been held at the United States’ championships since the early 1950s and the European Championships made them standard in 1957. The Japanese had opposed weight categories but in 1962, Anton Geesink of the Netherlands won the World Championship in the open class in a dominating manner. The Japanese were now concerned that if only an open class were contested, they would be left with no judo titles, which was unthinkable to them. It was elected to use the European standard of a lightweight (<68 kg.), middleweight (<80 kg.) and heavyweight class (>80 kg.). Britain, France and Belgium pushed for the inclusion of an open class, and this became the fourth category.
The final question was professionalism. Many judo competitors spent time teaching the sport as well, which was not allowed by the amateur code in 1964. This was even true of Geesink. In Japan, some judo administrators lobbied to ban Geesink, reasoning that although some Japanese would also be affected, second-line Japanese judo players could likely beat the rest of the amateur world. It was eventually settled that the amateur status of the judo competitors was declared by the various NOCs, and the Netherlands declared that Geesink followed the rules of amateur status. Interestingly, Geesink attempted to compete in the 1960 Olympics in wrestling but the Dutch NOC removed him from the team because he was teaching judo in France.
The 1964 judo events took place in the Nippon Budokan – the Japanese Military Arts Hall. The matches were held on a traditional Japanese tatami, set in the center of the stadium. Preliminary round matches lasted 10 minutes, and the finals were 15 minutes. Most of the competitors had spent at least some time training in Japan. The exception was the Soviet team, which brought athletes who had converted to judo from the traditional Soviet jacket wrestling sport of sambo.
In each class, the athletes were separated into various round-robin pools. The winner of each pool qualified for the knock-out round, or effectively quarter-finals. From the pool winners, single-elimination bouts were held until a winner was determined in each class.