New Olympic torch route illuminates games’ diverse history

Boris Johnson with torchbearers in new uniforms.
Photo credit: London 2012 Olympics

The Olympic torch will start its 8.000 miles journey on May 19th and will visit every British nation and over 1.000 communities, as well as stunning landmarks like Stonehenge or Isle of Lewis in Scotland. It will need an average of 115 people each day to carry the torch to its final destination in the Olympic Stadium in London July 27

In total 8.000 people will carry the flame along the decided route. 7,300 people were nominees from the public, with a story of achievement or involved in local communities.

The rest are athletes and celebrities. Every torchbearer will wear a white Adidas uniform with gold shards representing the flame.

History

In Ancient Greek people believed that fire had sacred qualities. They used torches in front of temples as well as for cultural festivals. During the Olympic games the torch and relay were important elements to celebrate the event. During the Games, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess, Hera, while heralds traveled throughout Greece to announce the Games.

When the modern Olympic games started in 1896 the torch relay didn’t play a role. The first modern relay happened in1936 during the Games in Hitler’s Berlin. Back then 3.3000 torchbearers carried the flame from Olympia, over eastern Europe to Germany. After that the relay became ritual in opening the Games.

Every four years the flame is lit from the sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, in a traditional ceremony among the ruins of the home of the ancient Games.
After short stops in Greece the torch is handed over to the new Host City in a ceremony in the Panathenaiko stadium in Athens.
Then the announced Torchbearers spread the message of peace, unity and friendship in their journey through the Host Country. Although today the actual meaning and spirit of the torch relay might have gotten lost in a commercialised society, it is still a huge honor for the chosen people to be part of this international mega event.

Finally the Flame is extinguished on the final day of the Games, at the Closing Ceremony.

Design

For every new game the design of the torch changes. From 1936 until now no torch compares to another. This year it was designed by east Londoners Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who won a contest run by the 2012 Organising Committee and the Design Council. The golden Torch reflects the 8.000 miles and its equal number runners by an inner and an outer aluminium alloy skin, held in place by a cast top piece and base, perforated by 8,000 circles. Since a lot of the runners will be quite young the torch was designed to be as light as possible and weighs only 8.00 grams.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport said: ‘This is a big day in the Olympic preparations – the Torch Relay will now come to life for millions of people. The excitement will be increasingly infectious as people all over the UK now start to plan where they’re going to go to see the Olympic Flame and cheer on local Torchbearers.’

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