The Torch Bearer from Hiroshima

Yoshinori Sakai-Sports Illustrated

Yoshinori Sakai (坂井義則) was born on August 6, 1945, the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. As a symbol of Japan rising from the ashes, Sakai momentously carried the Olympic torch into the National Stadium, and lit the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games.

He was on the Waseda University track team and won gold and silver at the 1966 Asian Games in 4X400 relay and in the 400 meter race.

With the explosion of television as a mass media channel in the 1960s in Japan, it was clearly apparent to Sakai, who was the focus of attention of billions of people in the most global event in the world, that mass media was a booming industry. Sakai decided in 1968 to join Fuji Television, a major network in Japan, as a journalist.

And while he never represented Japan in an Olympic Games, he worked as a reporter in them. He was at the Munich Games in 1972, when Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists. He put on a Japan Team uniform and snuck into the Olympic Village in order to report on the crisis by telephone.

Sakai passed away on September 10, 2014.

Yoshinori Sakai, who ran the final leg of the torch relay for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, touches the base of the Olympic torch at National Stadium in Shinjuku Ward in September 2013. | KYODO
Yoshinori Sakai, who ran the final leg of the torch relay for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, touches the base of the Olympic torch at National Stadium in Shinjuku Ward in September 2013. | KYODO