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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1964 Tokyo Olympics Torchbearer Dies

Former runner Sakai Yoshinori (surname first) - 坂井 義則 - who was the final torchbearer at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, died on September 10, 2014 at the relatively young-age of 69.

Sakai was the man who lit the cauldron at the main stadium heralding the official opening of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Prior to this, Sakai was a 1600-meter runner at Waseda University, but as a 19-year-old, he failed to make the Japan Olympic team. 

So… how does he get chosen to bear the torch for what was Japan's most-important global sporting events?

Sympathy.

Sakai was a child of the atom, having been born in Miyoshi-shi (Miyoshi City) in Hiroshima-ken (Hiroshima Prefecture) on August 6, 1945 - the same day that Allied Forces led by the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.  

Basically, Sakai was chosen for the finial torchbearer role to symbolize Japan's postwar reconstruction and peace.     

Although he never actually competed in the Olympics, Sakai won a Gold Medal in the Men's 1600-meter relay and a silver in the 400-meter run at the 1966 Asian Games (in Bangkok).

He later worked as a journalist doing news and sports starting in 1968 for Fuji Television

You can view a YouTube video on Sakai by clicking HERE.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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