HomeSports 2.0KreedOn Case StudyThe Significance of Olympic Torch and Olympic Flame

The Significance of Olympic Torch and Olympic Flame

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The Olympic torch is said to be the symbol of the Olympic Movement. The flame reflects continuity between the ancient Olympic games and modern Olympic games and also denotes the positive bond that man has with fire. The torch is lit in Olympia, Greece which starts the Olympic Torch Relay and ends up glowing in the opening ceremony of the scheduled Olympic game. The flame burns through the course of the game, and it is extinguished at the end of the Olympics, which is the closing ceremony. 

Olympic Torch Origin

Olympic torch KreedOn
Image Source: pleasanton express

The Olympic flame is ignited with the help of a parabolic mirror in the sanctuary of the goddess Hestia with the Sun’s rays. It had a very interesting history of Prometheus stealing the fire connotations but in the modern days, the Olympic flame is ignited at a site where the temples of Hera ruins.

READ | List of Olympic Mascots 1972 – 2020 

The lighting of the Olympic Flame


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The lighting of the Olympic flame in both the summer and winter Olympics is the same. The only time when the Olympic flame was already burning in the stadium took place on two occasions–at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936 and St Moritz in 1948. This process of igniting the Olympic flame takes months before the games that are scheduled later to allow for the torch relay to take place and bring the Olympic flame to the host city.

History of First Olympic Torch Relay

In 1936, Carl Diem, Secretary-General of the Organising Committee of the Games proposed the inclusion of an Olympic torch relay in the program of the Berlin Olympics. The transportation which was ignited in Olympia took place with a torch relay to berlin.

The 1952 Oslo Winter Olympic Games witnessed the first torch relay ever. This first torch relay did not start in Olympia, Greece, but in the games of Norway.

At the Winter Games in 1956, the Olympic flame was lit in front of the Capitol in Rome, as the city had just been elected host of the 1956 Olympic Games.

The torch relay for the Winter Games started in Olympia from the Innsbruck Olympic Games in 1964.

READ | The significance of Olympic flag & five Olympic rings

Itinerary of the Olympic Torch Relay

Basic route

Choosing a route for an Olympic torch relay is not as easy as officials working on it have to make arrangements for it specifically and have to look after potential obstacles.

From Olympia to Athens

Olympic torch KreedOn

The lighting of the Olympic flame in Olympia is always handled by the organization called Greek Olympic Committee. This Committee also organizes a group of runners for the transport to Athens.

From Athens to the host city

The rest of the torch relay transport to the host city of the Games is handled by the Olympic Games Organising Committee (OCOG). This Committee plans the theme of the torch relay, determines the regions to be crossed, the stops planned, and the different types of transport.

READ | India at Olympics | Top 15 Indian Olympic Winners

Some special Olympic Torch Relay & facts


Olympic Torch Berlin 1936

Olympic torch KreedOn
Image Source:
  • Total distance: – 3187
  • Countries crossed: – Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany
  • Number of torchbearers: – 3331
  • Final torchbearer: – Fritz Schilgen, german youth icon

Olympic Torch Tokyo 1964

Olympic Torch KreedOn
Image Source:
  • Total distance: – 26065 km (including air transport)
  • Number of torchbearers: – 101866 (People accompanied the main relay runner so they were also taken into consideration)
  • Countries crossed: – from Greece to Japan with stops in the various Southeast Asian and South Asia countries.
  • Final torchbearer: – Yoshinori Sakai aka “Hiroshima Baby”. He was born on the day when the atomic bombs were dropped.

Olympic Torch Montreal 1976

Olympic Torch
Image Source: historymuseum
  • Total distance: – 775 km
  • Countries crossed: – Greece, Canada
  • Number of torchbearers: – approx. 1,214
  • Final torchbearer: – English speaker Sandra Henderson, and French Speaker Stéphane Préfontaine came together to lit the cauldron together which symbolized the emergence of youth in Canada.

Olympic Torch Sydney 2000

Olympic torch KreedOn
Image Source: wiki
  • Total distance: – 27 000 km (Australia)
  • Countries crossed: – Greece, Guam, Palau, Micronesia, Salomon Islands, Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia
  • Number of torchbearers: – 800 (Greece), 1500 (Oceania), 11 000 (Australia)

Olympic Torch Athens 2004

olympic torch KreedOn
Image Source: icollector
  • Total distance: – over 78 000 km
  • Countries crossed: – Greece, plus international route covering all five continents and visiting all previous Summer Games host cities as well as the next city which was due to host the Olympics, Beijing.
  • Number of torchbearers: – approx. 7 700 (Greece), approx. 3 600 (internationally)
  • Final torchbearer: – 1996 Olympic Sailing champion, Nikolaos Kaklamanakis


Olympic Torch Oslo 1952

Olympic Torch KreedOn
Image Source: flickr
  • Departure from: – Morgedal, valley in the Telemark region, Oslo
  • Total distance: – 225 km
  • Countries crossed: – Norway
  • Number of torchbearers: – 94 (skiers)
  • Final torchbearer: – Eigil Nansen, grandson of the 1922 nobel prize winner(peace) Fridtjof Nansen

Olympic Torch Lake Placid 1980

Image Source:
  • Total distance: – 12824 km (of which 1600 km in the USA)
  • Countries crossed: – Greece, Few Parts of USA
  • Number of torchbearers: – 52
  • Final torchbearer: – Dr Charles Morgan Kerr, psychiatrist, University of Arizona

Olympic Torch Calgary 1988

Image Source: in the snow
  • Total distance: – 18 000 km in Canada, figures not provided for Greece.
  • Countries crossed: – Greece & few parts of Canada.
  • Number of torchbearers: – 7 342

Olympic Torch Torino 2006

  • Total distance: – 11300km
  • Number of torchbearers: – 10001
  • Countries crossed: –  Greece, France (to former Olympic Winter Games host city Albertville), and Italy.
  • The look of the Olympic torch

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, colors, and materials used have become more and more varied. This diversity shows not only the will to differentiate editions of the Games but also a desire to present, through the object, the particularities of the host country.

List of Olympic Torch relays: Summer Olympics

BERLIN 19363331Fritz Schilgen
TOKYO 1964101836Yoshinori Sakai
MEXICO CITY 19682,778Enriqueta Basilio
Munich 19726,000Günther Zahn
MONTREAL 1976~ 1212Sandra Henderson & Stéphane Préfontaine
Moscow 19805000Sergei Belov
Los Angeles 19843636Rafer Johnson
Seoul 19881467Chung Sun-man, Shon Mi-chung, Kim Won-tak
Barcelona 199210448Antonio Rebollo
Atlanta 199613267Muhammad Ali
SYDNEY 2000800(GREECE), 1500(OCEANIA), 11000(AUSTRALIA)Cathy Freeman
ATHENS 2004~ 11000Nikolaos Kaklamanakis
Beijing 20082100Li Ning
London 20128000Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk, Aidan Reynolds, Adelle Tracey, Jordan Duckitt, Cameron MacRitchie
Rio 201612000Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima

(Stadium cauldron)

List of Olympic Torch relays: Winter Olympics

Year Total Number of torchbearers Last torchbearer
Oslo 195294Eigil Nansen
Squaw Valley 1960700Ken Henry
Grenoble 19685000Alain Calmat
Sapporo 197216000Hideki Takada
Innsbruck 1976Not recordedChristil Haas, Josef Feistmantl
Lake Placid 198052Dr Charles Morgan Kerr
Sarajevo 19841600Sanda Dubravčić
Calgary 19886250Robyn Perry
Albertville 19925500Michael Platini, François-Cyrille Grange
Lillehammer 19947000Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway
Nagano 19987000Midori Ito
Salt Lake City 200212000The 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team
Torino 200610001Stefania Belmondo
Vancouver 201012000+Steve nash, Nancy greene, Wayne Gretzky
Sochi 201414000+Irina Rodnina, Vladislav Tretiak
Pyeongchang 20187500Yuna kim

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Aditya Mishra
IIMC'n. National Level Athlete (400m- 50.23). Sports and Defence enthusiast. Busy decoding: "MANSHA-VACHA-KARMA"


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