Olympic Flame | Origin, History and Other Facts

The Olympic flame is an important symbol of the Olympic games. Know about the origin, history and relevance of the Olympic flame as well as the tradition of the flame in modern Olympics through these 5 interesting facts.

#1 Ancient Olympics

The modern Olympic Games are a revival of the ancient Olympic Games which were usually held every four years in the city of Olympia in Greece. These ancient games were held in the honor of the Greek God Zeus. They began in 776 BC and were celebrated till 394 AD. A great statue of Zeus was constructed to preside over the games. It was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia Depiction
A Depiction of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia

#2 Origin of the Olympic Flame

During the ancient Olympics in Greece, a fire kept burning throughout the celebration of the games. For people of ancient Greece fire had divine qualities. They believed that Prometheus had stolen fire from the gods and given it to humankind. The fire was reintroduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and since then it has been a symbol of the modern Olympic Games.

Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind Painting
Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind by Heinrich Friedrich Fuger


In 1936 Carl Diem proposed using a torch relay to bring the Olympic Flame from its ancient site Greece to Berlin – the site of the 1936 Olympic Games. It is believed by many that Adolf Hitler pushed for this idea. He thought that it was a good way to illustrate his belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich.

Olympic Torch 1936 Berlin Olympics
Torchbearer of the first Olympic torch relay to bring the flame to 1936 Berlin Olympics

#4 Olympic Flame in Modern Olympics

Nowadays the torch is ignited several months before the opening ceremony at the site of the ancient Olympics – Olympia, Greece. Then the flame is brought to the site of the Olympic Games by a long relay of runners. On the day of the opening ceremony the last bearer, usually a prominent sports personality of the host country, carries the torch to the cauldron and uses it to start the flame at the central stadium of the games. After being lit, the flame continues to burn throughout the Olympics, and is extinguished on the day of the closing ceremony.

David Beckham 2012 London Olympic torch
English footballer David Beckham carries the 2012 London Olympic torch

#5 Interesting  Methods of Carrying the Flame

The Olympic Flame has traveled by boat, air-plane, Native American canoe and even a camel. In 1976, the flame was transformed to a radio signal. From Athens this signal was transmitted by satellite to Canada, where it was received and used to trigger a laser beam to re-light the flame.

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