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Tokyo 1964 Torch Relay Getty Images

Route design and details

After the flame was lit in Olympia and had been carried by relay to Athens, the flame took to the air on 23 August 1964 to travel via Istanbul, Beirut, Tehran, Lahore, New Delhi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Hong Kong and Taipei, cities in each of which a relay took place.

At the request of the Nepalese Olympic Committee, when the relay stopped off in New Delhi, a second flame was lit from the main flame and from there was taken to Kathmandu, where a ceremony took place. The flame was then transported by plane to Calcutta where it was reunited with the main flame.

On 7 September, the flame landed on the island of Okinawa. The first runner was Isamu Miyagi, who carried the torch to the Okutakeyama Stadium, where a welcome ceremony was held. To make up the delay owing to a typhoon in Hong Kong, a part of the flame was sent to the Japanese mainland in Kagoshima on 9 September, while the Okinawa relay continued. On 11 September, the two flames were once again reunited in Fukuoka.

The flame crossed Japan by taking four different paths, leaving respectively for Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Chitose and Aomori. From Chitose, the flame travelled to the prefecture of Aomori, where the route split into two: one headed for the south towards the Sea of Japan, and the other also went southwards but on the Pacific Ocean side.

On 9 October in Tokyo, in the square outside the Imperial Palace, the four flames were reunited in one cauldron on the occasion of a ceremony.

On the following day, the final relay stage during which the route went from the Imperial Palace to the National Stadium, the flame was carried by five men and two women before being handed to the final runner, Yoshinori Sakai, at the Opening Ceremony. He climbed the 163 steps that led up to the cauldron and lit it exactly three hours and three seconds after noon.

Tokyo 1964 Relay route IOC

Start date: 21 August 1964, Olympia (Greece)
End date: 10 October 1964, National Stadium, Tokyo (Japan)
First torchbearer: George Marsellos, Olympic participant in athletics (1960, 1964)
Last torchbearer: Yoshinori Sakai
Number of torchbearers: 870 outside Japan, including 366 in Greece.
For Japan, the only known figure is the total number of runners, including the reserve runners and their support runners, which could be up to 20 people at a time. This figure is 100,603.
Recruitment of torchbearers: On Japanese soil, the torchbearers were aged 16 to 20, and were not necessarily athletes.
Distance: 26,065 km, including:
  • Outside Japan: 16,240 km in total of which 732 km was on the ground (including 350 km in Greece), and 15,508 km by air.
  • In Japan: 9,825 km in total of which 2,692 km was by plane, 6,755 km on land and 378 km by sea.
Countries visited: Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong (then a British colony), Taipei, Okinawa (then under US administration), Japan.
Tokyo 1964 Torch IOC Description: The torch bears the inscription XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964 and the Olympic rings. The combustion tube is covered in stainless steel.
Colour: Black, silver
Height: 72 cm
Composition: Aluminium, steel
Fuel: Gunpowder and smoke. The combustion duration is 12 minutes.
Designer / Manufacturer: Munemichi Yanagi / Nippon Light Metal Company, Ltd

Did you know?

  • In Hong Kong, the relay was slightly disrupted due to a typhoon that struck the city on 4 September at midnight and damaged the special plane transporting the flame. Another plane was made available which allowed the relay to continue to Taipei with only one day’s delay.
  • Lit by the flame taken from the cauldron at the main stadium, a single auxiliary cauldron per competition venue allowed the flame to also burn at Komazawa Sport Park, Enoshima Yacht Harbour, Toda Rowing Course, Kemigawa Playing Grounds and Karuizawa.
  • Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in Hiroshima Prefecture on 6 August 1945, the day of the atomic explosion, was chosen as the last torchbearer to symbolise peace.
  • In 2014, the 2.1m-high main cauldron was relocated from the National Stadium during the stadium reconstruction work. It was loaned to the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, which had been badly hit by the tsunami in 2011, for around four years. In 2019 and 2020, the cauldron visited other cities, including Kawaguchi, where it was initially built, before returning to Tokyo and being set up at the new National Stadium.

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