Flickers from Olympic torch history

April 15th, 2008 - 2:38 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) The Olympic torch, now in the middle of a global relay, represents the positive values that man has always associated with fire. Here are glimpses of its tradition and history: The torch begins its journey from Olympia, Greece. The flame is lit in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera by actresses playing the part of priestesses. The flame is lit according to the ancient method of focussing the sun’s rays with a parabolic mirror - and this is the only was the flame can be lit.

This process takes place months before the opening of the Games, to allow the relay to take place and bring the flame to the host city.

The flame is placed in an urn and transported to the ancient stadium in Olympia where it is given to the first runner by the high priestess.

The final torchbearer often does a lap of the stadium before lighting the monumental cauldron with the Olympic flame.

The identity of the final torchbearer is kept secret until the last moment. It is a personality from the sports world or a young person symbolising hope for the future.

The Olympic flame from the ancient games was reintroduced during the 1928 Olympic Games. An employee of the Electric Utility of Amsterdam lit the first Olympic flame in the Marathon Tower of the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam.

The modern convention of moving the Olympic Flame via a relay system from Olympia to the Olympic venue began with the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

The flame made its first trip in an airplane during the Oslo Games in 1952.

To mark the fact that the equestrian events were held separately from the other Olympic events, the torchbearers for the journey of the flame to Stockholm for the 1956 Games carried the flame entirely on horseback. Camels replaced horses when the flame crossed the Australian desert for the Sydney 2000 Games.

The torch relay in Rome in 1960 was televised for the first time and the media followed the event closely.

In the sea off Veracruz, Mexico, in 1968 swimmers carried the flame from the boat Durango to the shore and a diver swam across the port of Marseilles holding the flame out of the water in Grenoble.

The Canadians organised the transmission of the flame by satellite between Athens and Ottawa during the 1976 Montreal Games.

During the relay for the Seoul Games in 1988, the torchbearers did not wear the official uniform provided by the Games Organising Committee, but wore traditional costumes instead.

In Lillehammer for the Winter Games in 1994, for the first time in the history of the Olympics, one parachute jumper transferred the flame to another. It also made an impressive entry at the opening ceremony of the Games, carried by a ski jumper during his actual jump.

The torch (but not the flame) was carried into space by astronauts. During the Games in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000).

A diver carried the flame under water at the Great Barrier Reef during the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Legendary Norwegian skiers (or their descendants) carried the flame for the Winter Games in Oslo (1952). The flame went into the Arctic Circle at Inuvik, with stages carried out by snow-bike and skidoo.

About the torch:

These days a gas cartridge in the body of the torch is the most popular fuel for the flame. The type of gas used can influence the colour of the flame (from white to yellow-red) and its intensity.

In the early days of the relay, the torch models were more or less the same. With the evolution of the Olympic Games, the shapes, colours and materials used have become more and more varied.

The Nagano (1998) Winter Olympics torch, for example, took inspiration from the traditional Japanese “taimatsu” torch, whereas the Sydney (2000) torch was a reminiscent of the Opera House and the curved shape of a boomerang.

The torch for the Beijing Olympics has been designed by computer giant Lenovo. More than 30 Lenovo design specialists were involved in the torch project.

The torch is fashioned from a polished aluminium-magnesium alloy and measures 720 millimetres x 50 mm x 40 mm (28.35 inches x 1.97 in x 1.56 in) and is exceptionally lightweight at about 1 kg (2.21 pounds).

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