The Summer Olympics Games in Tokyo has been through some of the most epic obstacles to ever get in the way of a major international sporting event. It started in 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak from China exploded into a pandemic. They had to push the Olympics to the following year, hopeful that a cure or vaccine will be ready well before then. 2021 rolled in and the vaccines only started rolling out. Furthermore, the economic hit to the country was staggering. Can the Tokyo Olympics still be held? Perhaps the inspiring story of a minor participant might convince volunteers that it is worth doing.
CNN would have it that even if some personnel involved in the Tokyo Olympics might be having second thoughts about the chances of it ever being done, one participant is looking forward to it. She is one of Japan’s Olympic torchbearers, a woman who has twice survived cancer and will be the oldest among the selected torchbearers. In fact, she is the currently-living oldest person in the world. Her name is Kane Tanaka, 118 years old, a super-centenarian (110 years or older), and she is ready to do her part.
Born in 1903, the year the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air powered aircraft, Tanaka also has the honor of surviving two World Wars and two pandemics. Aside from COVID, she weathered the 1918 Spanish flu on its global rampage. Married at age 19, she helped run a family store for decades until age 103. Even afterwards, she maintains her wits by constantly solving math problems, playing Othello/modern Reversi, and maintaining a “natural curiosity.” Forty-nine Olympic Games have been held in her lifetime, and she was 61 when the Games were last in Tokyo, 1964.
If the situation permits it, Japan’s torch relay for the Olympic Games will start March 25 at nuclear-risky Fukushima, with a route passing through fellow regions devastated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. When the Olympic flame is passed on along the route to Kane Tanaka, she will cover most of her 100-meter section on a wheelchair, pushed by her family. However, Tanaka fully plans to stand up towards the end and walk to the next torchbearer in line to pass the Olympic Flame. And she will do it wearing running shoes gifted to her by the family on her birthday this past January.
Despite the odds, Japan’s Olympic organizing committee is determined to see the Games through, including the buildup torch relay, which can be witnessed by spectators from the roadside if they wear facemasks. The inclusion of the world’s oldest living person in the relay also highlights the large percentage of elderly population in Japan, which has over 80,000 centenarians since 2020.
Image: NBC Sports – Olympic News