This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened, though.

The list of things that have gone smoothly in the unfortunately long runup to the Tokyo Olympics has been depressingly short. Even the Olympic Torch relay, a standard feel-good moment for the Games, has faced difficulty and controversy, with one prefectural governor saying he didn’t want the torch carried through his prefecture and one high-profile runner dropping out of the festivities.

But on Thursday, the relay finally got underway, with a starting ceremony held in Fukushima Prefecture and members of Japan’s championship women’s soccer team being the first to carry the flame on its months-long parade around the country. However, it didn’t take long before fans watching from beside the route or on TV saw what many took as yet another bad sign for the Tokyo Olympics, as the torch suddenly went out while a runner was carrying it, as seen here.

Actually, the torch went out twice during day one of the relay, first in the town of Tomioka, as seen in the video, and later again in Hirono during a “torch kiss,” as the Japanese sports media refers to one runner using their torch’s fire to light another relay member’s.

In both instances the torch was quickly relit by officials transporting a lantern with a continually burning Olympic flame along the route, but that didn’t stop numerous Twitter commenters from getting a chill down their spine as the torches’ flames sputtered out.

“I knew it. The Tokyo Olympics are cursed.”
“It’s like some invisible force is saying ‘It’s over.’”
“I thought something like this might happen…and all I could do was smirk when it really did.”
“Sorry. I made trying to guess prefecture this would happen in into a game.”
“With all that’s happened with the Tokyo Olympics, at this point, I’d have been more surprised if it didn’t go out.”
“Apparently the torch flame actually goes out fairly often.”

That last commenter is on to something. While the Olympic flame may carry the symbolism of being eternal, the torch flame temporarily went out, or was deliberately extinguished, in the runup to the 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, and 2012 London Olympics. Learning from such prior incidents are likely why the Tokyo Olympics torch relay organizers were prepared to deal with the problem as quickly as they did, though probably they were hoping to at least get through the first day without this sort of hiccup.

▼ And just for the record, no, our crack reporter Mr. Sato was not behind any of the flame extinguishings.

Aside from the repeated relightings, no major problems occurred during the first day of the relay, which involved some 100 runners making their way through 10 Fukushima towns. Never the less, the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to start on July 23, probably don’t need any more ill omens, and so the organizers are investigating the cause of their torch troubles so they don’t happen again.

Source: NHK, Asahi Shimbun Digital, Nitele News 24, BBC, Wikipedia, Twitter
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