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History of the Olympic Torch and the Olympic Flame

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Today the lighting of the Olympic flame is an integral part of the Games and provides a connection to its ancient history. However, it didn’t make its first appearance until 32 years after the first modern Olympic Games. In these first appearances, the flame was lit over the stadium with much less fanfare than today.

Prior to the 1936 Games in Berlin, a German university lecturer, sports enthusiast, and head of Berlin’s Olympic Organizing Committee proposed a grand torch relay from Olympia to the site of the current Games. The torch would then be used to light the Olympic flame and open the Games.

Lighting of the Torch for Tokyo

The ceremony took place on March 12, 2020, at Olympia, Greece. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 31-city tour of Greece was canceled. A small ceremony was held in Sparta where Scottish actor Gerard Butler—who played Leonidas in the movie 300—helped commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae.

The torch was later placed in the Japan Olympic Museum until the relay was restarted on March 25, 2021. It then made a tour of Japan and then on July 23, 2021 after a delay of one year, the cauldron will be lit to open the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Five Facts about the Olympic Torch

  1. A new torch is designed for every Olympics.
  2. Several torches are made because each torchbearer is given their own torch. The flame is passed from runner to runner, not the torch.
  3. As it was in Ancient Greece, the Mother Flame that is used to light the torch is lit by the sun in Olympia.
  4. Since 1928, a flame has been lit in the opening ceremony and remains lit until the closing ceremony.
  5. The Olympic torch relay is 121 days long. 
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