The Olympic Flame
The Olympic flame represents a number of things, including purity and the endeavor for perfection. The lighting of the Olympic flame is a practice continued from the ancient Olympic Games. It all starts at the ancient site of Olympia in Greece, where a flame is ignited at the Temple of Hera in Olympia by the sun rays reflected off a curved mirror, and then is kept burning until the closing of the Olympic Games.
The flame is lit by women dressed in ancient-style robes, resembling those worn in ancient times, and using a curved mirror and the sun.
The idea of an Olympic Flame burning from the start of the games to the closing was first introduced in 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, where a fire was lit in the tower of the stadium, though no torch relay was undertaken. The first torch relay was conducted for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. See more about the Torch Relay and Olympic Torches.
- The first person to light the Olympic Flame was German middle-distance runner Fritz Schligen at Berlin in 1936.
- The torchbearer for the 1956 Olympics was a virtually unknown 19 year old at the time he carried the torch into the stadium at Melbourne. Ron Clarke went on to become the world's finest distance runner in the 1960s.
- The Japanese torchbearer who lit the flame at Tokyo in 1964, Yoshinori Sakai, was born in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped.
- After a rainstorm put out the Olympic flame during the 1976 Games in Montreal, a well intended official quickly re-lit it with his cigarette lighter. It was quickly put out again and correctly re-lit it with a backup torch lit from the original flame.
- In 1996, ex-boxer Muhammad Ali jogged the final leg of the relay to light the cauldron at the start of the Games.
- In Sydney 2000, Australian Aboriginal Cathy Freeman lit the cauldron at the start of the Games, and went on to win the 400m race. She is the only person to light the Olympic Flame and win a gold medal at the same Games.
- In Tokyo, there were two cauldrons, a symbolic one in the stadium which will be lit at the opening ceremony, and another on the waterfront which will burn for the duration of the Games.