Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The History Of The Olympic Torch (Part 2)

Dear Readers,

In my previous post dated on the 28th November 2011, I talk about the past Olympic torch designed for every Olympic event held in every country hosting this next biggest event held once in every four years.

What do this Olympic flames really mean, or more accurately what do they really symbolizes in the spirit of sportsmanship, in the spirit of Olympic?

Well according to reading fact the Olympic flames meaning and symbols does comes a very long way, In the context of the modern Games, the Olympic flame represents the positive values that Man has always associated with fire. The purity of the flame is guaranteed by the way it is lit using the sun’s rays. The choice of Olympia as a departure point emphasizes the link between the Ancient and Modern Games and underlines the profound connection between these two events.

History of the first torch relays – summer and winter
  • In 1936, Carl Diem, Secretary General of the Organising Committee of the Games of the XI Olympiad in Berlin, proposed the inclusion of a torch relay in the programme of the Olympics. The flame was lit in Olympia and transported to berlin via a torch relay. 
  • This first summer relay had to overcome several practical problems:
    • The site of Olympia was hard to access and roads had to be specially built;
    • planning of the itinerary required a lot of travelling for that period in time;
    • the absence of suitable products (torch, cauldron, etc.) meant that research into specialist technology had to be undertaken, such as tests with the sun’s rays and different optical instruments.
  • In the context of the Winter Games, the first relay took place during the 1952 Games in Oslo. This first relay did not start in Olympia, Greece, but in the valley of Morgedal in Norway.
    • the region, considered as the birthplace of skiing, was chosen as a reminder of the origins of this sport;
    • the flame was lit in the hearth of the chalet belonging to Sondre Norheim, a legendary figure in Norwegian skiing.
  • At the Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956, the flame was lit in front of the Capitole in Rome, as the city had just been elected host of the Games of the XVII Olympiad. The tripod used for the ceremony was sent from Olympia.
  • At the Winter Games in Squaw Valley in 1960, the flame was once again lit in Norway, at Sondre Norheim’s chalet. The inscription on the torch “Olympia to Squaw Valley” is a reference to an attempt to start the relay in Olympia, which did not succeed as the time period was too restricted.
  • Since the Innsbruck Games in 1964, the relay for the Winter Games has begun in Olympia.
Now Let us all see the rest of the Olympic torch in the second part, I will start with the Olympic hosted by Los Angeles in the year 1984.


Constructed of spun aluminum with an antique brass finish. Leather handle has name band for engraving name. Torches were numbered sequentially and inscribed with the Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius. The 22-inch (56-centimeter) torch weighed two pounds, four ounces (one kilogram) and was fueled by hospital-quality propane which could burn up to 50 minutes. The flame was wind resistant up to 40 miles per hour and could also withstand light rain.

The torch relay began its 15,000 kilometer journey on a rainy morning, 8 May 1984 at the United Nations Plaza in New York City. Olympian Rafer Johnson hosted a short program before Gina Hemphill, granddaughter of 1936 Olympian Jesse Owens, and Bill Thorpe. Jr., grandson of 1912 Olympian Jim Thorpe, became the first of 3,636 torchbearers. About two hours after the relay began, the Soviet Union announced that if would not accept the invitation of the LAOOC to participate in the 1984 Games.


The design of the torch, engraved with two dragons symbolizing the harmony of East and West, featured a total length of 55 centimeters, with a 10 centimeter diameter bowl. The torch weighed 1 kilogram and could burn for up to 10 minutes. The height of the flame was 35 to 40 centimeters with a diameter of 6 centimeters and a brightness of 700cp. The torch, constructed of brass and plastic, had a wind resistance of 72 kilometers per hour. The torch, once lit, would not go out even in sand or water.

A total of 3,300 torches were manufactured - 500 for use in Greece, 2,600 for the relay in Korea, and 200 for use in the Paralympics. Local branches of Korea Explosive delivered the torches to be used in domestic relay. The torches were loaded on designated vehicles one day before the run and distributed to runners 30 minutes before the run.

The Olympic flame lit up the world for 16 days at the 24th Seoul Olympic Games and all the activities surrounding the flame were carried out flawlessly by the SLOOC with the great cooperation of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC).

The lighting of the flame at the Temple of Hera in Olympia and the torch relay in Greece were conducted under an agreement signed between the SLOOC and the HOC.

The Olympic flame was flown from the Greek capital of Athens to Korea`s southernmost point, Cheju Island, aboard a special Korean Air flight on an air route between the two cities that included a stopover at Bangkok, Thailand.

The torch relay, originating from Cheju, took a 4,167.8 kilometer route to Seoul, passing through 21 major cities. The torch relay route, divided into a total of 1,595 running sections, was covered by 1,467 torchbearers, 2,782 assistant torchbearers and 16,640 escort runners over 21 nights and 22 days.


Altogether there were 9,484 relays: 8,885 on foot and 599 on bicycles. The foot relays were 500 metres, which had to be covered in 3 minutes; the bicycle relays were 2,500 metres and the time 6 minutes. Only on the final lap, in Barcelona, were the foot relays shortened to 250 metres to give as many people as possible a chance to carry the torch.

The bearers were selected by quotas: 50% had to be Olympic volunteers from around Spain; the councils of the towns the Olympic torch passed through had the right to choose a bearer; and, lastly, the companies which worked on the torch route and the other associate companies of COOB'92 had an opportunity to cover some of the relays.

The remaining bearers were chosen from people who applied. They had to be over fifteen years old and promise to run the relay in the time available, to wear the official bearers' uniform and to observe the rules laid down by the organisation. The city councils and authorities of the autonomous communities the flame passed through took part in the selection. Each bearer carried a new torch, which was offered to them as a gift if they were volunteers; those who were not had an opportunity to buy it at cost price (15,000 pesetas). All of them received the uniform they had worn on their relay as a present from COOB'92.

The bearers never ran alone; they were accompanied by an escort, whose job was to help them if they tired, felt unwell or stumbled and fell. The escorts did one relay as bearers and then accompanied nine more; on the foot relays, therefore, they ran 5 kilometres in 30 minutes and on the bicycle relays they rode 25 kilometres in 60 minutes.

 The torch was created by the Barcelona industrial designer AndrĂ© Ricard.


For each Olympiad, a flame is ignited from the sun`s rays in a historic ceremony dating back to 700 BC. The ceremony marks the beginning of the Flame Relay, and presents an opportunity for each organizing committee to pay homage to the legacy Greece has bequeathed to the modern Games.

Following tradition, the majestic ceremony took place in the ancient stadium in the city of Olympia. It was attended by thousands of Greek citizens in a public celebration of Olympic ideals. After presentations by the Greek government, HOC, ACOG officials, and the first lady of the US, the high priestess and accompanying priestesses performed an ancient and private ritual in the Sacred Grove of Altis, invoking the Greek gods to bless the Games and light the flame.


The design of the torch was inspired  by the Sydney Opera House and the curves  of a boomerang. The three layers of the  torch represent earth, water, and fire.

Prince Albert of Monaco ran a section on the Sydney Harbour foreshore, and at the Sydney Opera House the flame was held by blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who would later perform at the special Opera House Torch Gala Concert. He was accompanied on the outdoor stage by torchbearers Olympian Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and pop star Olivia Newton-John. Newton-John carried the flame around the Opera House and met up with Australian tennis ace Pat Rafter. Their backdrop was the Harbour Bridge, lit for the first time with the five Olympic rings and highlighted by fireworks exploding off the bridge pylons.

Day 100, 15 September, was the last day of the torch relay. With the Opening Ceremony to take place in the evening, crowd excitement and exuberance surrounding the torch was reaching a crescendo. Thousands of people ignored security and broke barricades to get a closer view of the Great White Shark, Australia's golfing great Greg Norman, carrying the torch on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After walking slowly through the crushing crowd, he passed the torch to Paralympian Louise Sauvage. 


An olive leaf served as the inspiration for the first Olympic torch that travelled to all five continents, carrying the message of peace for the Olympic Games of 2004. Its form was drawn from the leaf's lines and its harmonious shape. The torch's design was selected to enhance the flame with its upward dynamic shape. Its ergonomic curved design establishes the torch as the continuation of the flame, which does not only come
from the torch, but rises as a continuation of the torchbearer's hand. Weighing 700gr. and standing at 68cm, 
it is made of metal (magnesium) and wood (olive tree) in their natural colors.

This is considered to be the first truly Global Torch Relay was completed on 13 August 2004, when the 
Greek Olympic Gold Medallist (Mistral) Nikolaos Kaklamanakis lit the Cauldron at the Olympic Stadium, 
watched by 4 billion TV viewers during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games.


The Beijing Olympic Torch has a very strong Chinese flavour. The design of the Torch owns much of its inspiration to the concept of "Lucky Cloud" which represents the thousand-year-old Chinese culture of harmony between man and nature. The paper scroll shape demonstrates one of the greatest inventions China had presented to the world. The application of "China red", a special shade of red which was first used on lacquerware in China`s Han Dynasty about 2000 years ago, distinguishes the Beijing Olympic torch from all the previous Games torches, with a contrast between red and silver  colours that produces a striking visual effect.

The Torch is made of aluminium and of a curved surface form, with etching and anodising being used during its production. The fuel is propane which is in accordance with environmental  guidelines.

One of the highlights of this leg will be the attempt to bring the Olympic Flame to the highest peak in the world Mt. Qomolangma. During the arrival ceremony for the flame into China on March 31, 2008, one of the lanterns with the Olympic Flame will be kept aside. The torchbearer team will then attempt to take the Flame to the highest peak on a day in May that presents the best climatic conditions for the ascent.

Resource : Olympic Museum Org. & TorchRelay Beijing Relay 2008

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