Sharing the Pride of the Tokyo Games with Asia: The 1964 Torch Relay Through Eurasia

The Olympic torch relay passing through Bangkok, Thailand.
The Olympic torch relay passing through Bangkok, Thailand.

The 1964 Tokyo Games were the first Olympics to be held in Asia, and not only was Japan busting with pride, so was a good part of Asia. Thus it was decided that the tradition of transporting the Olympic flame to the host country should include a roadshow through Asia.

“It was the first time the Olympics were held in Asia,” Charanjit Singh told me. “And during that period the Japanese just rose to the occasion. There was so much devastation (after the war),” explained the captain of the Indian field hockey team. “But instead of giving up, they built it back up themselves. The Olympics were a very good show there, and it showed the world that Asian people can do it very well, like the rest of the world.”

From August 21 to September 6 the torch wended its way through Eurasia, first from Greece to Istanbul. After a day in Turkey, the flame hopped on a plane to Beirut, Lebanon, and then to Teheran, Iran. The course continued on to Lahore, Pakistan, New Delhi, India, Rangoon, Burma, Bangkok, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Manila in the Philippines. What I learned was that the sacred flame traveled by plane from point to point – which in hindsight makes total sense but removes the romance of this lonely flame traversing thousands of kilometers by foot.

Picture of Sacred Flame readied for travel.
Picture of Sacred Flame readied for travel.

In the end, the Sacred Flame traveled a total over 16,000 kilometers, about 95% by air. Are spirit-infused flames eligible for mileage points? Did they offer the flame a cool welcome drink?

(All pictures in this post including the ones below are from the “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964: The Official Report of the Organizing Committee”)

Olympic torch (Beirut)

Olympic torch 12

Rangoon, Burma
Rangoon, Burma
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Manila, Philippines
Manila, Philippines
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan