Gigantic screen and cheering audience encourage miraculous jumps
ASTROVISION screen in the main stadium
The Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games, which lasted for 16 days, attracted worldwide attention as the last Olympic Winter Games of the 20th century.
The first image seen by 3 billion people around the world at the televised Opening Ceremony was the bell of Zenkoji Temple projected on the big ASTROVISION screen in the stadium. The image might have reminded some members of the audience of the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games which were broadcast live for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games. In the opening scene of the legendary documentary film "Olympia" for the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games, it was the "Olympic Bell" that signaled the start of the Games.
Sixty-two years after the first televising of the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games, the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games were the third Games to be hosted by Japan. Japanese people expected the Games to be successful and Japanese athletes were under considerable pressure to win medals.
Yoshi Goto, Assistant Councilor Astrovision Department of Matsushita Communication Industrial Co., Ltd.
The Panasonic team which was responsible for the audiovisual systems used in the Nagano venues felt equally under pressure. Yoshi Goto, Assistant Councilor of the Astrovision Department remembers: "I thought that since the audience in Nagano was now aware of the effects of the ASTROVISION systems installed in the venues and audience and athletes were beginning to feel a sense of togetherness somewhat thanks to these systems, the last event, team ski jumping, could be enlivened through the ASTROVISION screen."
Japan was the favorite to win the team ski jumping event because the Japanese team was considered the strongest in the history of team ski jumping. The team included Masahiko Harada and Kazuyoshi Funaki, rivals who had won gold and silver medals twice in the World Cup individual all-around championships, and bronze medalist Hiroya Saito. However, hampered by severe wind conditions in which it was difficult for a jumper to maintain his poise at the starting point, Harada jumped too short in his first attempt and the Japanese team slipped from first to fourth.
At this, many in the Japanese audience felt a premonition of disaster. Four years previously, at the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games, Japan was set to win the gold in the team ski jumping event if Harada, the last jumper, managed a leap of 105 m. Everyone thought he could make a leap of that length with his hands behind his back. However, the leap he produced was only 97.5 m. After landing, Harada crouched down with his head between his hands and did not move. The gold medal slipped away from Japan just as victory had seemed assured.
ASTROVISION screen at the Hakuba ski jump slope
At Hakuba, as the snow grew heavier, there was an announcement that the second round would be delayed. If the second round had to cancelled, the competition would be over, which meant that Japan would end up in fourth place. The Japanese test jumpers jumped and jumped amid the swirling snow to demonstrate to the judges that jumping could go ahead.
At the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games, competitions were often delayed due to changes in the weather. It was the images from the ASTROVISION screen that entertained the spectators as they waited for another event to begin. At Hakuba, the big ASTROVISION screen drew cheers from the expectant spectators. This charged atmosphere may have spurred on the organizing staff in their decision to start the second round.
The second round began. This round would determine the fate of the Japanese team. The team's first jumper Okabe put Japan back in first place with an amazing jump of 137 m. Despite the unfavorable wind conditions, Hiroya Saito brought out all the stops and managed a jump of 124 m. Then came Harada's turn. On the ASTROVISION screen Harada could be seen waiting at the starting point. Driving snow seemed to obstruct his view. Anyone who took a glance at the screen realized the severity of the snowstorm.
The setting for that memorable scene
While 30,000 spectators watched with bated breath, Harada raced down the slope, jumped and stayed airborne amid the blowing snow as if in a slow motion picture. His body reached far beyond the video distance-calculation system with a record 137 m jump.
The final jumper was young ace Funaki. A close-up of Harada's face appeared on the screen. Harada was calling Funaki's name over and over again as though in a daze. Funaki jumped out low and maintained perfect style until he landed at a distance of 125 m. Upon confirmation of his score on the scoreboard, Funaki threw up his arms and fell on his back. The next moment, Harada jumped on top of Funaki and hugged him. Okabe and Saito threw themselves onto the two skiers and there were hugs all round. Japan had taken the gold medal.
The ASTROVISION screen at the Closing Ceremony replayed various memorable scenes from the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games: Funaki raising a clenched fist in victory, mogul skier Satoya staying in the air in her Cossack, and Shimizu's bullet start. After the large audience in the main stadium had enjoyed these flashbacks, the display ended with the smiling faces of citizens in a city across the Pacific Ocean, Salt Lake City.
* These reports were written in December 2001.
We changed the corporate name from Matsushita Group to Panasonic Group on October 1, 2008.
Some reports in this page use our former name because they were written before the renaming.