Saturday, September 25News That Matters

Nearly 100 years of lighting the Olympic flame

The Olympic flame was introduced at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. The torch relay began eight years later ahead of the 1936 Berlin Games.

“In the context of the modern Games, the Olympic flame is a manifestation of the positive values that man has always associated with the symbolism of fire,” the International Olympic Committee says.

The flame begins its life at a lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia, where the original Olympics were held for centuries.

Over the years, the flame has played a bigger and bigger role at the opening ceremony, with the identity of the final torchbearer – often former Olympic greats from the host country – the topic of feverish discussion.

Muhammad Ali, a gold medalist at the 1960 Rome Olympics, lit the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Four years later, Cathy Freeman lit the flame in Sydney and became the only person to light a cauldron and win a gold medal in the same games when she finished first in the 400 metres.

One of the most memorable lighting ceremonies came at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo shot a fiery arrow over the top of the cauldron, igniting the gases from within.

The torch relay for the postponed Tokyo Games began on Thursday, but it is unlikely we will know the name of the person who will light the cauldron at the opening ceremony on July 23 until moments before it happens.