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World’s Oldest Citizen Withdrawn from Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay

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Tokyo 2020 has confirmed that the world’s oldest citizen, 118-year-old Kane Tanaka, has been withdrawn from the Olympic Torch Relay.

“Mrs. Tanaka is not participating,” said a statement by the organizers of Torch Relay.

She was scheduled to transport the Flame to her hometown of Shime, Fukuoka prefecture, on May 11, accompanied by relatives.

Actual participation depended on her health.

She is said to have been the third centenarian to participate in this event.

The decision to withdraw her was formally communicated by her family to the organizers of Torch Relay.

It comes as no surprise after a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases across Japan.

Although Tanaka herself is still in good health, she is said to have spent two more weeks in quarantine after the relay.

Her great-granddaughter Junko Tanaka told me Mainichi Shimbun: “It’s a shame because I wanted people to feel hope seeing her happy with the torch.”

The Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay resumes tomorrow on Getty Images
The Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay resumes tomorrow on Getty Images

Tanaka would be the oldest participant in an Olympic torch relay.

That record is now held by 109-year-old Shigeko Kagawa, who wore the Flame in Nara City last month.

Her exploits caught the attention of Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee.

“I was deeply moved,” said Bach.

“I really hope that one day I will have the opportunity to meet her, see her and congratulate her and thank her for this wonderful engagement.”

For the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, 107-year-old Aida Mendes, known locally as “Grandma Iai”, ran the Flame in Macap, Brazil and lit the festive cauldron in the city.

Alexander Kaptarenko, a 101-year-old table tennis player, had practiced carrying a frozen salmon of the same weight before taking the 2014 Sochi Flame in Novosibirsk.

The Tokyo 2020 Flame is currently underway, returning to the mainland after two days on the islands of Okinawa.

It is scheduled to resume its journey in Kumamoto prefecture tomorrow, but organizers have already announced that the final sections of the relay in prefecture will be moved from city road to the grounds of Kumamoto Castle.



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