Tourist information guide on Athens Greece

The Olympic Torch in Athens


Olympic Summer Games



1936 Berlin Olympic torch
1936 Berlin

For the first time in the history of the modern Olympic Games, the Olympic flame was lit by fire coming directly from the sanctuary of the Ancient Olympic Games in Olympia. After covering a distance of 3.422 kilometers through Greece, Bulgaria, Jugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany (the torch passed through the capital city of each country), the torch reached the Olympic altar in Berlin on 1 August . The torch itself, designed by the sculptor Lemcke, was in polished steel. On the handle, the inscription “Fackelstaffel-Lauf Olympia-Berlin 1936” with Olympic rings and the German eagle superimposed. On the bottom part, the line of the flame’s route from Olympia to Berlin. On the platform, the inscription “Organisazions-Komitee fur die XI. Olympiade Berlin 1926. Als Dank dem Trager”.
1948 London Olympic torch

1948 London

There were three types of torches used during the relay : a standard torch, a torch with a gas recipient for the sea crossing and a torch for the last runner (left). The torch carried the inscription "XIV OLYMPIAD LONDON 1948" and was in stainless steel. It was created for the last leg of the race, the entrance to the stadium. The flame was in magnesium so it would burn brightly and be seen beyond the stadium even in bright sunshine. The sacred flame traveled 3.365 kilometers, passing through eight European countries. It was carried by 1.416 runners before reaching the altar in Wembley Stadium on 29 July.

1952 Helsinki Olympic torch

1952 Helsinki

The Finns organizing the Games asked that the Flame should not pass across the territory of the Eastern bloc since the consequences of the Second World War had not yet been surmounted. The Flame for the 1952 Olympics therefore traveled by air for the first time, from Athens to Helsinki via Copenhagen. It reached the stadium in the Finnish capital on 19 July 1952. The second to last relay runner was the famous Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, then 55 years old, who handed it over to the equally celebrated Finnish runner and Olympic medalist Hans Kohlemainen, then 62, who lit the altar with the Flame. The torch had a conical shape with on the bottom part of the burner the inscription "XV Olympia Helsinki 1952" and on the rings underneath "Helsinki Helsingfors". As a decoration, in the middle of the surface of the burner, there was a laurel crown on one side and on the other the Olympic rings. The handle was in lacquered wood.

1956 Melbourne/Stockholm Olympic torch

1956 Melbourne/Stockholm

The Flame made two journeys to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The Australians refused to accept the horses for the equestrian events due to disease transmission concerns. The IOC was thus forced to assign the equestrian events to Stockholm. The Flame traveled not only to Australia but to Sweden as well. It reached Melbourne after covering 20.470 kilometers and being carried by 3.118 runners, the last of whom was the famous runner Ron Clark. To reach Stockholm, the Flame went by air from Athens to Malmo and Thence, with an escort of 150 horsemen from sixteen Swedish Riding Clubs, to the stadium in Stockholm. The torch was designed with reference to the model of torch of the 1948 London Games. On the base of the chalice-shaped top part, the Olympic rings and inscription "XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956". The torch for the equestrian competitions in Stockholm from the same year had a similar form.

1960 Rome Olympic torch

1960 Rome

The ancient monuments of Greece and Italy were the backbone for the Olympic Flame route of the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. Its journey began at Piraeus, the port of Athens, on the Amerigo Vespucci boat which carried it to Syracuse. From there, it was carried to Rome via various Italian towns. 1.529 athletes took part in the Torch Relay, covering 2.750 kilometers, the last relay runner being Giancarlo Peri, who carried it to the altar of the Olympic Stadium in Rome. The torch was intentionally based on a classic model, inspired by the torches reproduced on ancient monuments. The base bears the inscription: "Giocchi della XVII Olympiade".

1964 Tokyo Olympic torch

1964 Tokyo

For the Torch Relay of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, the Flame's journey began in Olympia on 21 August . It was carried from Athens to Constantinople by air. From there it went by road through Beirut, Tehran, Lahore, New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Hong Kong, Taipei and finally Okinawa which was chosen as the gateway for Japan. The Flame was lit at the altar in the Tokyo Stadium on 10 October by a young student, Yosinori Sakai. The Flame covered a total of 26.065 kilometers traveling by air, on land, and by sea. 100.603 runners, an Olympic record, carried the flame. It was made of a cylindrical tube covered in stainless steel and filed with gunpowder and smoke. The support was designed to go with the torch and was specially made in aluminum to limit its weight. It carries the inscription "XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964", alongside the Olympic rings.

1968 Mexico Olympic torch
1968 Mexico

The Olympic Flame for the 1968 Mexico Olympics followed the course of the great explorer, Christopher Columbus. From Olympia it was carried to Genoa, Columbus' birthplace, before reaching Barcelona, the city that gave him a hero's welcome when he returned having discovered America. The Flame then voyaged to Mexico on the frigate Princesa Sofia, which followed the same course as had Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria. The voyage of the Flame lasted 21 days. The Flame was lit on the altar of Mexico City's Olympic Stadium, for the first time by a woman, Enriqueta Basilio. Its design recaptures the “Mexico 68” logo, featured on the emblem as well as on the posters. It is cone-shaped, grooved and carved and bears the inscription “MEXICO 68” on the top at the side where the flame comes out.
1972 Munich Olympic torch

1972 Munich

Six countries welcomed the Olympic Flame for the 1972 Munich Olympics. From Olympia it went to Turkey and then to Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Austria. The voyage lasted 29 days, with 5.532 kilometers covered by 6.000 torch runners, including motorcyclists. The altar at the Munich Olympic Stadium was lit by track and field athlete Gunther Zahn. "Spiele der XX Olympiade Munchen 1972" on the combustion tube. On the handle, the Olympic rings and the emblem of the Games, representing a crown of rays of light.

1976 Montreal Olympic torch
1976 Montreal

The journey of the Olympic Flame to the 1976 Olympics was marked by a major innovation: it was carried for the first time by a laser beamed via a satellite, from Athens to Ottawa. During the relay in Canada, 1.214 runners were used. For the very first time, the flame was lit by a young couple of athletes: the 16-year old Stephane Prefontaine and the 15-year old Sandra Henderson. The graphics and design management team of the Organizing Committee for these Games opted for a functional design and a lightweight material, aluminum, thinking that each runner had to run one kilometer holding the torch. The colour black was chosen with the aim of making the flame more visible on the photographs.
1980 Moscow Olympic torch

1980 Moscow

At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Flame covered 4.915 kilometers, through Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and the then Soviet Union. 5.000 runners took part, the last one being the Russian basketball legend Sergei Belov. On the handle of the torch there was the caption: "Moskva Olimpiada 1980" (Moscow Olympiad 1980). On the platform, the emblem of the Games.

1984 Los Angeles Olympic torch

1984 Los Angeles

The American organizers auctioned every kilometer of the Torch Relay on American soil for 3.000 dollars. The idea did not meet with the approval of the Hellenic Olympic Committee which informed the American organizers that it would not deliver the Olympic Flame. Though the Flame did eventually travel to New York, no Torch Relay took place on Greek soil, nor was there the Handing Over of the Flame ceremony. The Americans collected 11 million dollars as a result of this sponsorship. The flame was lit at the altar by Rafer Johnson, winner of the Decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympics. The leather handle features a metallic ring and the caption "Games of the XXIII Olympiad Los Angeles 1984" with the Olympic motto "Citius Altius Fortius" and the picture of the Memorial Coliseum.

1988 Seoul Olympic torch

1988 Seoul

The South Koreans worked for more than two years on the Torch Relay of the Seoul 1988 Olympics with a staff of 156 people. The Flame was carried by plane from Athens to Cheju Island to cover 15.250 kilometers in 26 days with no less than 20.899 runners taking part. At the top of the handle there was "Games of the XXIVth Olympiad Seoul 1988" and the emblem together with a Korean drawing. The handle was in leather.

1992 Barcelona Olympic torch

1992 Barcelona

The Olympic Flame was carried aboard the Spanish frigate Catalunya to the port of Empuries, an old Greek colony. It reached Barcelona after traveling for 51 days over a distance of 6.307 kilometers, with 10.448 runners taking part. The Flame was lit at the Olympic Stadium of Montjuic by Antonio Rebollo, a Paralympics archer, who shot his flaming arrow at the altar. "XXV Olimpiada Barcelona 1992" on the handle with the Games emblem. The torch was created by the Barcelona industrial designer Andre Ricard.

1996 Atlanta Olympic torch

1996 Atlanta

The Torch-lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was attended by Hillary Clinton, spouse of the then US President Bill Clinton. The Torch Relay lasted 170 days. The last runner was the boxing legend, Mohamed Ali. The torch was inspired by the simplest ancient torches - a cluster of reeds bound by twine - and also reflected the lines of classical Greek architecture. It featured 22 aluminum "reeds" (one for each Olympic Games). On the first gold plated brass ring is the inscription "Atlanta 1996" with the Games emblem. On the second ring are the names of the host cities of the Olympic Games of the modern era. The torch was the tallest ever for a summer Olympic Games and the only one designed to be grasped in the middle.

2000 Sydney Olympic torch
2000 Sydney

The Olympic Flame for the 2000 Sydney Games traveled via various Greek cities for a whole ten days. The Flame then covered a distance of 27.000 kilometers, reached the sacred district of the Uluru aborigines in Australia, while ships and even frogmen were used to carry it. The transit lasted a total of 127 days. The final runner, who lit the altar with the Flame, the aborigine Kathy Freeman, was also the winner of the gold medal in the Sydney Olympics 400 meters. The architecture of the Sydney Opera House, the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the subtle curve of the boomerang inspired the design of the torch. The torch includes three layers which are representative of earth, fire and water.
2004 Athens Olympic torch
2004 Athens

The 2004 Olympic Games marked the return of the Games to the country of their birth and to the city of their modern revival. To celebrate history of the Games,, the Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay united all five continents. The Olympic Flame began its journey at Olympia and, having traveled across the globe, returned to the Athens Olympic Stadium on 13 August 2004, where it signaled the beginning of the 2004 Olympic Games. The journey lasted 78 days. Outside Greece the flame traveled for 35 days covering a distance of approximately 78.000 km, 1.500 of which in the hands of 3.600 torchbearers. A total of 260 million people had the opportunity to see the flame in their city. For the first time in history the Olympic Torch Relay brought the flame to Africa and Latin America. The flame passed through all Olympic cities. It also passed through cities with special symbolic meaning such as Brussels, heart of the European Union, Lausanne, seat of the International Olympic committee, and Beijing, host city of the next Olympiad. The Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay embraced all cultures and the five continents symbolized by the five Olympic rings.

An olive leaf served as the inspiration for the first Olympic torch that traveled to all five continents, carrying the message of peace for the Olympic Games of 2004. Its form was drawn from the leaf’s lines and its harmonious shape. The torch's design was selected to enhance the flame with its upward dynamic shape. Its ergonomic curved design establishes the torch as the continuation of the flame, which does not only come from the torch, but rises as a continuation of the torchbearer's hand. Weighing 700gr. and standing at 68cm, it is made of metal (magnesium) and wood (olive tree) in their natural colors.

2008 Beijing

The Beijing Olympic Torch boasts strong Chinese characteristics, and showcases Chinese design and technical capabilities. It embodies the concepts of a Green Olympics, a High-tech Olympics and the People's Olympics.

The torch is 72 centimeters high, weighs 985 grams and is made of aluminum. The torch is of a curved surface form, with etching and anodizing being used during its production. A torch can usually keep burning for approximately 15 minutes in conditions where the flame is 25 to 30 centimeters high in a windless environment. The torch has been produced to withstand winds of up to 65 kilometers per hour and to stay alight in rain up to 50mm an hour. The flame can be identified and photographed in sunshine and areas of extreme brightness. The fuel is propane which is in accordance with environmental guidelines. The material of its form is recyclable.

The shape of the paper scroll and the lucky clouds graphic, expresses the idea of harmony. Its stable burning technique and adaptability to the environment have reached a new technical level. The torch of the Beijing Olympic Games is designed, researched and produced in China. BOCOG owns all intellectual property rights.

Under the concept of a Green Olympics, environmental protection was a key element listed in the invitation documents to the design companies, by BOCOG. The fuel of the torch is propane, which is a common fuel which also comes with a low price. It is composed of carbon and hydrogen. No material, except carbon dioxide and water remain after the burning, eliminating any risk of pollution.

2005 August BOCOG developed the design concepts and requirements of the torch.
2005 December BOCOG recruited potential torch designs from the design society. In total, BOCOG received 388 pieces of works.
2006 June-August BOCOG selected the structural designer and the burning system designer.
2007 January Beijing Olympic Torch was approved by IOC.

Also see the Olympic Winter Games torches
Credit: IOC/Olympic Museum Collections


    Olympic Winter Games Torches
  TORINO 2006
  BEIJING 2008
  LONDON 2012

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