Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Summer Olympic Torch Relay and Flame Link with the Greek Mythology

2016 Olympics Torch is currently in Rio de Janeiro after going around Brazil. It has visisted over 300 cities and towns and finally will end up at the Maracana Stadium during the official opening of the 31st edition of the Summer Olympics scheduled to take place tomorrow on the 5th of August in Rio de Janeiro. During the 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony the torch will be used to light up the Olympics Flame that will keep burning for the entire period of the games. But what is the history and the origin of this magical torch that is symbolic to Olympics?

The Brazil's President Her Excellency Dilma Rousseff with other top official holding the 2016 Olympics Torch

This Picture is from Wikipedia


The Olympic Torch and Flame have their origin from the Ancient Greece. In the Greeks Mythology, it was believed that fire was stolen from their gods by Titan Prometheus and the gods did not take this theft lightly resulting to a war, but funny enough the Olympics Flame do not honor Prometheus but Zeus who actually punished Prometheus for stealing the fire and giving it to humans.

During the Ancient Olympics Games, the Olympics Flame was lit at the Olympia, and even today the Olympics Flame is lit at the ruins of this once great temple. Fire was so important to the ancient Greeks and it was considered divine, well it had been stolen from the gods and as such there was fire consistently burning at the Olympia’s front yard; which was the home of the Ancient Olympics Games.

This fire was not lit with a match, but from the sun with help of huge parabolic mirrors and hence the sun was the source of this fire. These mirrors are known as Skaphia and direct sun rays until fire is formed. Apparently even the 2016 Olympics Flame like any other torch from previous edition is lit using parabolic mirrors and the sun.

A Greek actress; Eleni Menegaki acting as high priestess lights the 2010 Youth Olympics Flame at the Temple of Hera in Olympia

This Picture is from Wikipedia

Besides, having fire at the font yards of their temples, the Greeks also had fire lit in the altars of their gods as well as goddesses and they remained lit permanently.

As such there was permanent fire lit at the altar of Hestia; the Greeks goddess of hearth or fireside. Hestia was believed to be a virgin and was the daughter of Cronus and a Titaness daughter; Rhea. Cronus was the leader of the first generation of Titans while his wife Rhea was considered the mother of gods. This link with a virgin goddess was observed by Greeks who allowed only virgin girls to light the Olympics Flame at Olympia.

The Ruins of the Temple at Olympia, where the Olympics Flame originate

This Picture is from Wikipedia

Zeus was yet another god who enjoyed permanent fire at his altar, well the Greeks considered him to be the king of gods and therefore his residence at Mount Olympus had fire too. Even if Zeus was not the king of the gods, he would had the fire lit for other reasons i.e. he was considered the youngest brother of Hestia; Greeks goddess of hearth or fireside and hence, who could deny him fire then?

Besides, Zeus was also the god lightning, thunder, sky, law and order as well as justice and this was not a god to take for granted. Zeus married his sister Hera and they lived together on Mount Olympus and hence she enjoyed permanent fire too. Besides, Hera being a queen of gods, she was also the goddess of child birth, marriage, women and family and this also accorded her right to her own permanent flame.

There is however some differences between the Olympics Flame of the Ancient Olympics Games and of these Modern. In the Ancient Olympics Games, the fire that was lit did not leave the confines of the Olympia, the official venue of games, which was also the residence of Hestia, while in the Modern Olympics, the fire actually travel from place to place.


The Modern Olympics Flame was first introduced in the 1928 Summer Olympics held in Netherland’s Amsterdam City. This 1928 Olympics Flame was lit at the Marathon Tower in the stadium that officially hosted the 8th edition of the Summer Olympics. This 1928 Olympics Flame did not have much significant as that of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and its lighting was left to the Amsterdam Electrical Company staff, I presume he was junior too, am not sure.

The 1928 Summer Olympics Flame Burning at the Marathon Tower

This Picture is from Wikipedia

Following the Ancient Olympics Traditions, this flame remained within the stadiums perimeter not leaving even once. There was not flame in the following 1932 Summer Olympics but when the flame returned in the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, so much had changed since the 1928 Olympics. THE 1936 SUMMER OLYMPICS TORCH AND RELAY

The changes that came at the 1936 Summer Olympics were to last to today, well this was one of the most controversial Summer Olympics edition that was officially opened by Adolf Hitler and had a lot of racial discrimination. Read more about the 1936 Summer Olympics Politics of Racial Discrimination

It was in the 1936 Summer Olympics Torch Relay was introduced and it was carried for 3,187 kilometers by a team of 3,331 athletes in an exciting journey that started in Greece at Olympia and took 12 days. It was even made into a controversial movie by the name Olympia, which was used as propaganda tool by Nazi Germany. This first Olympics Torch Relay met protests in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, but the Nazi backed regimes quickly suppressed these protesters.

The first Ever Olympics Torch Relay arrives in Berlin for the 1936 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony

This Picture is from Wikipedia

The Nazis used the Olympics Torch Relay to show their regime’s link to the ancient Greeks.

The Olympics Flame Burn at the Summer Olympics official stadium during the 1936 Games

This Picture is from Wikipedia

But since the 1936 Summer Olympics, the Torch Relay has visited many places in the world.

This torch comes in different shapes and design. The Rio 2016 Olympics Torch Relay has visited two continents; Europe where it was lit in Greece, travelled to Switzerland and came to South America’s Brazil and has touched many people’s lives across the country.

The Olympics Flame and Torch Relay is truly one uniting element of the modern Olympics.