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The History of the Olympic Torch Relay

(i) The Origin of the Torch Relay
Ancient Olympia Spectator Stand
The Torch Relay can be traced back to ancient Olympia, Greece. The Olympic flame was bestowed by Apollo, the ancient god of the sun. It is the highest ideal of the Olympic spirit, representing hope and dreams, sunshine and happiness, friendship, peace and equality. Before the staging of the Olympic Games in ancient times, the Olympic flame was lit in front of the Temple of Hera in Olympia and the torch was carried through Greece to call on people to put down their weapons, stop the war and participate in the Olympic Games. The modern Olympic Games continue the tradition of Torch Relay, which symbolises the close link between the ancient Games and the modern Olympic Games. This prelude to the Olympic Games is also instrumental in spreading the Olympic spirit, encouraging all people's participation in the Games and relaying the message of friendship and peace.
Entrance to the
Ancient Olympia Stadium
Relics of the
Ancient Olympia Stadium
(ii) The Symbol of the Olympic Flame

The Olympic flame is the flame which is kindled in Olympia, Greece under the authority of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is the highest ideal of the Olympic spirit, representing hope and dreams, sunshine and happiness, friendship, peace and equality as well as the values and concepts of perseverance and pleasure from hard efforts and struggles as advocated by the Olympic spirit.

(iii) The Lighting of the Olympic Flame

The priestess gives the Olympic torch of the Games of the XVI Olympiad to the first torchbearer of the relay
The lighting of the flame follows the tradition of ancient Greece. A few months before the opening of the Olympic Games, the high priestess prays loudly to praise Apollo, the ancient god of the sun, before the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece, the place of the first Olympic Games. The Olympic flame is then lit according to an ancient method, using the sun and a concave recipient (a parabolic mirror). The rays, concentrated at the centre of the recipient, cause an intense heat which allows a flame to be obtained. This is the only way to light the Olympic flame.

The flame obtained in this way is put into an urn and carried by the high priestess to the ancient stadium and passed to the first torchbearer, who carries the official torch of the Games and starts the relay to the host city of the Olympic Games.

In order to keep the purity of the flame, the original fire lit at Olympia should be used throughout the Olympic Torch Relay. The flame should not be mixed with the other symbolic fire, nor should it be separated and used in more than one torch relay simultaneously.

(iv) Olympic Torch

The Olympic torch is a portable torch as approved by the IOC and intended for combustion of the Olympic flame. The torch lit in each Olympic Games has become an important legacy from the Olympic Movement. During the relay, it should be ensured that the flame must never go out. The torch must be able to withstand difficult weather conditions and suitable to be carried on special modes of transportation.

(v) Tinder Lamp

The tinder is contained in the tinder lamp of the Olympic flame. In order to ensure the solemnity and purity of the flame, it must never go out during the period of the Torch Relay and the tinder of the Olympic flame must be protected properly. If the flame goes out, it must be lit again by using the original tinder from the lamp so as to ensure that the Olympic flame burning in the main cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is directly lit by the tinder.

2008| Important notices| Privacy policy Last revision date: 24 November, 2011