The Olympic torch relay, its origins and significance / Ansgar Molzberger

Molzberger, Ansgar

Edited by The Olympic Studies Centre - 2024

At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, an Olympic torch relay was organised for the first time in history. The idea for the torch relay is attributed to the German Secretary General of the 1936 Olympic Games, Carl Diem. Previously, Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the modern Olympic Movement, had used the image of the Olympic torch in several speeches right from the early days of the Olympic Games. After its premiere, the Olympic torch relay became an indispensable part of the Olympic Games. After a lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia under the responsibility of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, and the handing over of the Olympic flame in Athens to the respective Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, the Olympic flame has since been transported to the Olympic host city with the help of several thousand torchbearers. At the opening ceremony of the Games, the last runner then lights the Olympic flame in a cauldron that burns until the end of the Games. For the Olympic Winter Games, the first torch relay was held in 1952. However, there were "alternative" starting locations initially. For the Olympic torch relay at the 1964 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, the Olympic flame was lit in Ancient Olympia for the first time. In 2009, the International Olympic Committee decided that, in the future, the Olympic torch relay should again be held primarily in Greece and in the country of the upcoming Olympic host. This article examines the origins, signification and development of the Olympic torch relay.

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