South Africa's impact on the Olympic Games had been modest in terms of medals, although they had taken part in every celebration from 1904. But as sport and politics became inextricably linked, South Africa's policies of apartheid led to its athletes being banned from the 1964 Games, and they would not return under their national flag for 28 years.
There were withdrawals by Indonesia and North Korea following a dispute arising from an Asian regional sporting event the previous year but the turnout in Tokyo was a record 93 nations and the Games delivered many memorable performances.
As a symbol of Japan's post-war reconstruction and commitment to peace, the Olympic flame was lit by Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in Hiroshima on the day in 1945 when the city was hit by an atomic bomb.
Two new events were added — both Japanese strengths — but they produced mixed results for the hosts. In volleyball, Japan's women took gold but the men could only manage bronze. And in judo, which was only open to men, Japan looked to be on their way to a clean sweep as their fighters won at lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight.
But in the open category the gold went to the Dutchman Anton Geesink, who had beaten Akio Kaminaga in the first round and repeated the victory in the final after the Japanese judoka progressed through the repechage.
Japan's best performances came in wrestling and gymnastics, but even though they topped the table in the latter and saw Yukio Endo win three golds and a silver in the men's events the competition was dominated by some remarkable performances from eastern Europe.
Competing in her last Olympics, Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union won six medals — two of each — to finish her career with a record total of 18 from three editions of the Games.
Boris Shakhlin collected a gold, two silvers and a bronze to retire with a total of 13 medals. Věra Čáslavská of Czechoslovakia matched Endo's haul of three golds and one silver and would improve on that four years later.
Dawn Fraser ended her swimming career with a gold and a silver leaving her with four of each but the star in the pool was the American Don Schollander with four gold medals — the most by any performer at these Games — and three world records.
On the water, the Soviet rower Vyacheslav Ivanov completed a hat-trick of gold medals in the single sculls.
In athletics, Betty Cuthbert won gold to go with the three she had collected at her home Games in Melbourne. She edged Ann Packer in the 400m, with the British runner compensating by winning gold at 800m.
Great Britain enjoyed double success in the long jump with Mary Rand becoming her country's first gold medallist in a women's athletics event and Lynn Davies winning the men's contest. Rand also took silver in the pentathlon.
Other double winners were Peter Snell, the first man to win the 800m and 1,500m since 1920, and Abebe Bikila, the first man to successfully defend a marathon title.
And there was Tamara Press, the Soviet athlete who repeated her gold medal success in the shot put at Rome and improved on her silver medal in the discus. Her sister Irina, who had won gold over the 80m hurdles in Rome, this time added gold for the pentathlon.
Questions were asked, but never answered, about why both women disappeared from sporting competition from 1966, when gender testing was introduced.
Top three performances
1-Larisa Latynina (URS) - Ended her Olympic career with a record 18 medals, including nine golds, in women's gymnastics.
2-Dawn Fraser (AUS) - Claimed her third consecutive 100m freestyle swimming gold.
3- Osamu Watanabe (JAP) - The wrestler won featherweight gold and promptly retired with an unbeaten Olympic record of 189-0.
Did you know?
The Olympic flame was lit by Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in Hiroshima on August 6 1945, the day an atomic bomb was dropped on the city.
The first 'bullet train' went into operation nine days before the start of the Games.
The women's pentathlon was introduced, consisting of 80m hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump and 200m.