Study Guide

Olympics Books Olympic Torch

By Various Authors

Olympic Torch

Not Just for Angry Villagers

At the beginning of every Olympic Games, there's an opening ceremony in which someone uses a torch to light an even bigger torch. And then everyone cheers.

Yeah. When we write it out, it sounds a little weird. But that's because it's uber-symbolic.

In the context of the modern games, the Olympic flame is supposed to be "a manifestation of the positive values that Man has always associated with the symbolism of fire." (Source)

Dang. That's a weighty symbol.

Let's start from the beginning. Months before the games even start, there's a ceremony at a temple in Greece that once held the ancient Olympic Games. There, they light the torch using a reflective bowl and the sun's rays, which is supposed to make the flame super-pure.

This ceremony is derived from the process the ancient Greeks used to light the fires that were ever-present and always lit at their most important temples, because the flame honored the gods. Then, this same flame is carried by torchbearers—usually on foot, but less orthodox methods have been used in recent years as publicity stunts—from Olympia all the way to wherever the Games are being held.

According to the IOC, the flame's path is supposed to help herald the Olympic Games, and to transmit a message of peace and friendship to the people along its route. Nowadays, it's generally a way to honor the people along the path the flame needs to travel, and candidates to be torchbearers are selected using a wide variety of parameters.

We don't know about you, but someone running into our town carrying a torch tends to suggest something out of Frankenstein …but we watch way too many old horror movies.