It was meant to be an eternal reminder of Olympic ideals and the glory of the Games.

The "sacred" flame from Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics was meant to burn forever… but an embarrassed official has revealed that it actually went out four years ago.

Before the 1964 Games, the flame, lit in Olympia, Greece, wound its way through 10 countries before landing in Okinawa.

It was then divided and sent to the cities of Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Chitose.

The flame in Kagoshima was kept in a a sports training facility where it remained without incident for many years.

But the flame found its way back into the spotlight in September 2013, when Japan’s capital was awarded the right to host the 2020 Games.

An official, who – perhaps understandably – asked to remain anonymous, has admitted to AFP news agency that the flame actually went out a few months later, in November 2013.

"At that time, I could not say something that could destroy (people’s) dreams," said the man, who had been in charge of the facility at the time.

"I saw with my own eyes that the flame went out on 21 November.

"We re-lit the fire and kept it going for about two weeks but I thought that was not good."

This was only a few months after Japan had won the right to host the 2020 Games, and the flame’s fame was at its peak.

He said: "We kept receiving a number of requests from various people to use the sacred flame for town festivals and weddings.

"I decided to come clean."

Mitsuru Horinouchi, an official in Kagoshima, also confirmed to AFP that the flame went out for good in November 2013.

There is now a different flame in its place, lit by a magnifying glass and sunlight in December 2013 and kept in a camp site.

Nearby is a panel that explains the sad fate of its predecessor.

(c) Sky News 2017: Tokyo’s 1964 Olympic flame went out four years ago