UPDATE: In the hours after actor George Takei seemingly announced to the world that he would be the final torchbearer at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, he confirmed that it was all a ruse.
“Yes, friends, I’m afraid this was an April Fools prank, a bit of levity in an otherwise dark time,” he tweeted. “And while I’ll not be lighting that fire myself, my eyes will look upon it as a symbol of our triumph over this invisible foe and a reuniting of the global community.”
EARLIER: George Takei has been “sitting on some big news for quite some time,” and he’s only now able to reveal it.
“This will be such a unique moment, before the eyes of a billion people, lighting the torch as a symbol of hope for the future in 2021 in Tokyo,” he wrote in a statement on Instagram. “As a life-long runner, I’m especially grateful to have been chosen, and hope to do everyone in the US of A proud!”
Many individuals aid the torch’s journey to the cauldron. It was announced in December that members of the Women’s National Football Team of Japan would participate in the Tokyo Games. Yasunori Shimura, a television actor, was also meant to run in the torch relay when it was the 2020 Games. Shimura has since died from complications with COVID-19.
Per Olympic tradition, the final torchbearer, the one to actually light the Olympic cauldron as a symbolic gesture of igniting the Games, is typically a native of the country hosting the Olympics. Takei is Japanese-American. It’s also customary that the identity of the final torchbearer, a highly guarded secret, be revealed when the torch arrives in the Olympic Stadium on live television.
A rep for the International Olympics Committee did not respond to EW’s request for comment.
The torch for this year’s Games was lit in Greece and arrived in Japan on March 20 at the Japan Air Self-Defence Force Air Base in Matsushima, Miyagi prefecture. By March 24, the Tokyo Olympics had been formally postponed as the world continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The International Olympics Committee announced a new date for the events, beginning July 21, 2021. The lantern containing the flame will be on display in Japan as a symbol for “the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.” It currently resides at the J-Village National Training Centre in Fukushima, where it will remain for the month of April.
- 2020 Olympics to be postponed one year due to coronavirus
- Tokyo Olympics officially reset for July 2021
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