‘Eternal’ Olympic flame from 1964 Tokyo Games went out briefly 4 years ago, official admits


A flame from the 1964 Tokyo Olympic torch that was supposed to be kept alight eternally actually went out four years ago, red-faced officials confessed on Monday.

The flame, housed in a sports training facility in the southwestern Japanese city of Kagoshima, has been touted as a “sacred Olympic flame” since 1964 and received widespread media coverage when Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games.

But it turns out the flame went out in November 2013, two months after Tokyo won the Games, and was hastily re-lit, according to the then head of the facility.

“At that time, I could not say something that could destroy (people’s) dreams,” added the official, who declined to be named.

“I saw with my eyes that the flame went out on Nov. 21,” he added. “We re-lit the fire and kept it going for about two weeks, but I thought that was not good.”

At that time, there was considerable media interest in the flame as Japan had just been awarded the 2020 Games, he said.

“In addition, we kept receiving a number of requests from various people to use the ‘sacred flame’ for town festivals and weddings. I decided to come clean,” he said.

Local Kagoshima official Mitsuru Horinouchi also said the flame was extinguished for good in November 2013.

The facility now keeps a different flame — ignited by a magnifying glass and sunlight in December 2013 — at a camp site.

“We now have a display panel explaining the that existing flame was created after the flame from the 1964 Olympics went out,” the current head of the facility Etsuko Tabata told AFP.