The Olympic Torch will not now visit the hometown of Mikio Oda, Japan’s first Olympic champion, after a decision to "change the format of the Relay given the current status of COVID-19" in Hiroshima Prefecture.
Originally it had been scheduled to visit Kaita on May 18 during a two-day stay in the region.
In 1928, Oda won triple jump gold in Amsterdam, the first Japanese athlete to return home with a gold medal.
By any standard, he was a remarkable athlete. He excelled in the jumps and was also a talented decathlete. In a superb career he competed in three Olympics and set 21 Asian records.
Later, he became a coach, official and journalist and after the Second World War, he played an important role in the rehabilitation of Japanese sport.
As a teenager, he posted Japanese records at national trials and first made his mark internationally at the 1923 Far Eastern Games in Osaka where he won gold in both long jump and triple jump. It was a sign of things to come. Both titles became almost his personal property in the late 1920s.
"The short legs of the Japanese physical constitution were believed to be a big handicap in jumping. Yet young Japanese jumpers came forward one after another," Oda reflected many years later in a speech at the International Olympic Academy in Greece.
In 1924, Oda was selected for the Paris Olympics. He arrived in the city after a two week journey spanning two continents by train.
The Japanese team paraded at the Stade de Colombes and over half a century later, he reminisced with Kasuo Chujo, a fellow journalist at the Asahi Shimbun newspaper where both men had worked. "The stadium was huge. The grandstands were marvellous. The Opening Ceremony was well organised and magnificent," he recalled.
Oda achieved a new personal best in the triple jump to finish sixth, but also competed in the long jump and the high jump.
"The training field was very close to the Village. Top athletes from other countries also trained there, and I trained with them to learn from their techniques."
He returned home confident he could live in such exalted company.
The following year, he improved his best to 14.80 metres and by the start of the Olympic year of 1928, he was capable of 15.35m.
Once again he made the long journey to Europe as part of Japan’s largest Olympic team to date.
"There was a dining car on the train, but the food was expensive and I did not like it. I could only eat the soup and otherwise I bought eggs and chicken when we stopped at stations."
Before the Games, Oda and his fellow Waseda University athletes visited London for a match against the famed Achilles Club, a team drawn from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
The match, arranged through the efforts of renowned Waseda coach Tadaoki Yamamoto, took place at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club.
A member of achilles had also told Oda: "Competition is about giving your best effort, not about the final results."
Waseda lost the match by a very slim margin, but Oda was described in the press as "the star of the Japanese team."
He won the long jump with a distance of 7.34m and was described as "the strength of the Japanese Olympic team would appear to be in the field events. Although beaten in the track events, the Japanese athletes accomplished some fine performances."
Oda’s improvement meant he was now a medal prospect.
"I expressed some measure of confidence that I would succeed. I was convinced that I would win, at least, a bronze medal."
Amongst his rivals in Amsterdam were 1920 champion Ville Tuulos of Finland and Australian Nick Winter who had set a world record to win gold in 1924. The home favourite Wim Peeters was also highly favoured but none found their best form.
Throughout the competition Oda steadily improved. His best jump of 15.21 metres came in the third round.
"Our strenuous training bore fruit."
Not until the last round did American Lee Casey jump 15.17m for silver. Tuulos took the bronze with 15.11m.
"When the competition ended, the cameramen surrounded me but I did not realise I had won. Then the Japanese team started singing the national anthem and I realised and was relieved," Oda said.
Watching from the press stands was Harold Abrahams, 100 metres gold medallist from 1924 and a jumper himself.
"The all round standard was higher than in 1924, although the first two competitors did not do so well," Abrahams wrote.
In those days, medals were not presented until the final day, by which time Oda had already left Amsterdam to compete in the International Student Games in Paris. His medal was collected by 200m breaststroke champion Yoshiyuki Tsuruta.
When Oda finally returned to Japan he recalled there was no official reception. A welcome home party did take place locally, things were very low key. "I think that was just the nature of sport at that time," he reflected later.
The next milestone in his career came at a Tokyo meeting in October 1931 when he leapt 15.58m to eclipse Winter’s seven year old world record.
He travelled to Los Angeles as team captain and coach in 1932, but although he carried the Japanese flag, injury put paid to his hopes. He only finished 12th, but compatriot Chuhei Nambu ensured the gold medal remained in Japan.
Nambu was said to have kept Oda’s picture in his room for encouragement.
Oda insisted: "It was the opportunity of participating in the Olympic Games which spurred the development of sports in Japan."
It was not just in athletics. Japanese swimmers returned from Los Angeles with 12 medals.
Oda had also started work at the Asahi Shimbun.
"Japanese newspapers also contributed greatly toward the development of sports in this country. Although they were motivated partly by publicity reasons, their sponsorship of local sports events greatly helped to arouse interest in sports nationally."
In 1934, Oda was appointed head coach for the Japanese team at the Far Eastern Games in Manila. "Oda is the greatest all-round athlete developed in Japan," said reports.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Japan’s team also included Koreans, among them marathon champion Sohn Kee Chung who famously lamented: "I ran without a country."
Oda, who later forged a friendship with Sohn said: "I can understand his feelings. As captain of the Japanese track team, I was trying to treat him as an equal. I have never consciously discriminated against anybody."
It was also in Berlin that Tokyo’s campaign to stage the 1940 Games bore fruit.
"The whole country was wild with joy," Oda said.
When two years later, war with China forced Tokyo to relinquish them, Oda recalled that "the national disappointment was beyond concealment. It is no exaggeration to say that the World War practically eliminated any form of sport in Japan."
After 1945, his nation was initially excluded from the Olympics along with Germany, but Oda helped rebuild bridges and helped organise the first post war athletics meetings.
"In 1946, the National Sports Festival was inaugurated to kindle new hope in sports among the young people of the whole nation. The nation's fervent desire to be restored into the Olympic family was expressed in all possible kinds of effort to gain reinstatement," Oda said.
Japan did finally return to international sport in 1951 at the first Asian Games, held in Delhi.
In 1958, Tokyo hosted both an International Olympic Committee Session and the Asian Games.
At the Opening Ceremony, it fell to Oda, now 53 years old, to light the ceremonial Cauldron.
"A roar went up from the jammed stands. A slim ageing runner raced through the stadium carrying the Torch," said reports.
Robert Trumbull of the New York Times described Oda as a "muscular figure who sprinted around the clay track and swiftly mounted the steps to the top of the bowl."
The Asian Games flag was raised on a flag pole offering another tribute to Oda. It was precisely 15.21 metres high, in commemoration of his winning leap in 1928.
By this time, Tokyo’s 1964 Olympic bid was in full swing. Japanese sporting authorities spared no effort to impress visiting International Olympic Committee (IOC) members and the following year, Tokyo was confirmed as the host city for the 1964 Olympics.
Oda remained national coach and then took on the Presidency of the Japanese Athletics Association.
He also served as a council member for World Athletics, then known as the International Amateur Athletics Federation.
In 1980, he was angered by the Japanese Olympic boycott.
"I was against the boycott from the beginning. The Olympics are pointless if only a few nations compete.
"I felt the IOC should have made strenuous efforts in this regard. They should have helped those teams who were experiencing difficulties with their Governments.
"For those teams who had been prohibited by their Government’s action, the IOC should have interceded."
His career as an international administrator ended shortly afterwards but Oda himself lived to the age of 93. At his death, the International Track and Field annual described him as "a distinguished leader of the sport in Japan."
Chujo said of his old friend: "It isn’t possible to talk about sports history in Japan without recognising Oda’s contribution to athletics and sportsmanship."