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History of the Olympic Torch

The Torch Relay and its Modern Revival
Updated:2004-05-20

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    The modern Torch Relay is a non-competitive replication of the ancient Flame relay and a symbolic celebration of the Olympic Games. In a prophetic speech at the end of the Stockholm Games, on June 27, 1912, Baron Pierre de Coubertin said: "And now”­ great people have received the Torch”­ and have thereby undertaken to preserve and”­ quicken its precious Flame. Lest our youth temporarily”­ let the Olympic Torch fall from their hands”­ other young people on the other side of the world are prepared to pick it up again."

    The Torch Relay, as the opening of the Olympic celebration, was revived in the Berlin Olympiad in 1936 and since then the Torch Relay has preceded every Olympic Summer Games. Starting from Olympia and carried by the first runner, the young athlete Konstantinos Kondylis, the Flame travelled for the first time hand to hand until it reached the Berlin Olympic Stadium. Since, the Flame's magic has marked and has been identified with the beginning of the Games.

    In Olympiads that followed, the Torch Relay continued to play an important role, having been enriched with the characteristics and cultures of the host countries. The choice of the athlete who lights the Flame in the Olympic stadium is always symbolic to the host country.

    For the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, the Flame followed a route in homage to the Greek and Roman civilizations. It was carried from Piraeus to Rome on the ship 'Americo Vespucci' and passed through some of the best-known or important historical monuments of the two countries. It was the first time that the event was covered by television.

    In the Mexico Olympiad in 1968, the Flame followed the route taken by Christopher Columbus, and the athletics champion Enriqueta Basilio was the first woman to light the Flame in the Olympic stadium. For the Montreal Games in 1976, the Flame travelled by satellite from Athens to Ottawa, and in the 1992 Games in Barcelona aParalympic Archery medallist Antonio Rebollo lit the Flame in the stadium with a burning arrow. In Sydney 2000, the Flame made its journey underwater in the Great Barrier Reef and covered the longest distance in the history of the Games so far.

    The upcoming ATHENS 2004 Olympic Torch Relay will be the first global journey of the Flame.

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