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Star Architects, Urban Spectacles and Global Brands: Exploring the Case of the Tokyo Olympics 2020

Tamari, Tomoko. 2019. Star Architects, Urban Spectacles and Global Brands: Exploring the Case of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. International Journal of Japanese Sociology, 28(1), pp. 45-63. ISSN 0918-7545 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Olympic stadia are often regarded as a political showcase involving a range of influences: the host nation’s international politics, the interests of transnational capitalism along with site-specific meanings and the power of iconic architecture. By examining the 2020 Tokyo Olympic main stadium as a case study, the paper analyzes the controversial Zaha Hadid’ stadium plan in relation to the Japanese nation branding initiative. In doing so, the paper argues that ‘branding’ should be seen as part of an economic and cultural system which seems to enhance the global value of iconic architects and their buildings. Yet, the power of brands can be understood as a contingent entity. This is because its ambivalenct nature entails a tension between exclusiveness and banality; additionally, it could be difficult for branded architects to work across the different regimes of global and local politics; and they are of course also constrained by the logic of neoliberal transnational capitalism. By investigating a major global branded architect, Zaha Hadid and her architecture plan, the paper considers why a new image of Japan could not be adequately created by Hadid’s aesthetics and narratives of the Olympic stadium which should be regarded as a national cultural legacy. The paper then discusses the contested processes of image-making and narrative creation in relation to the representation of Japan in contemporary Olympic culture. The paper concludes with an examination of Kengo Kuma’s architecture language in his 2020 Tokyo Olympics stadium design.

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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Star Architects, Urban Spectacles and Global Brands:
Exploring the Case of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


architecture, Olympics, brand, neoliberalism, social media, Tokyo

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


22 January 2019Accepted
28 March 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

31 Jan 2019 14:32

Last Modified:

09 May 2019 09:13

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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