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The Olympic Torch Relay

The Olympic Games torch relay tradition begins with the Olympic flame being lit by the sun's rays at the ancient site of Olympia, after which it is passed by torch from runner to runner to the Olympic stadium in the host city. As such, the relay represents a continuation from the ancient Olympic Games to the modern Olympics.

torch bearer at the 2012 London Gamestorch bearer at the 2012 London Games

The idea of an Olympic Flame burning from the beginning to the end of the Games was not introduced until the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, where a fire was lit in the tower of the stadium. No torch relay was undertaken in 1928 - the first torch relay was conducted for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

The lighting of the flame for the cauldron in the Berlin Olympic stadium became a highlight of the opening ceremony. The tradition of the torch relay and lighting of the cauldron in the stadium has continued for all subsequent Olympic Games.

The First Torch Relay

In 1936, the chairman of the organizing committee for the 1936 Olympic Games, Carl Diem, suggested what is now the modern Olympic Torch relay. The flame was kindled in Olympia, home of the ancient Olympics, and then relayed first in Greece and then transported to Berlin via a torch relay. The relay crossed seven countries in in 11 days and 12 nights using 3075 torchbearers, covering a distance of 3075 km.

The relay took place from July 20th 1936 to the Grand Opening of the Summer Olympic Games where the Berlin Stadium flame was ignited by the last German runner, Schilgen, at 5:20pm on August 1, 1936.

The torch relay route (as engraved on the torch's handle) included Olympia, Athens, Delphi and Saloniki (now Thessaloniki) in Greece, Sofia in Bulgaria, Belgrade in Serbia / Yugoslavia, Budapest in Hungary, Wien (Vienna) in Austria, Prag (Prague) in Czechoslovakia / Czechia and finally Dresden and Berlin in Germany.

Other Relays

The first Olympic torch that traveled to all five continents was the torch for the Athens Olympics in 2004. See more about the torch relay transportation. There is also more about the torch relays for 2000, 2012, 2016, 2020 and the Paris 2024 Torch Relay.

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