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1. Introduction to How the Olympic Torch Works 2. History of the Torch 3. The Birth of the Modern Torch Relay 4. Designing an Olympic Torch 5. The Flame 6. Torch Construction 7. The Lighting of the Olympic Torch 8. The Torch Relay 9. Lots More Information 10. See all Olympics articles
Introduction to How the Olympic Torch Works
Olympic Games Image Gallery The Tibetan flag flies as the 2008 Beijing Olympics torch is carried by respected sports personalities and celebrities from Wembley Stadium to the grand finale at the O2 Dome, April 6, 2008 in London, England. See more Olympics pictures. Warren Little/Getty Images
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It cooks our food. By the time it arrives in the stadium. trains. This article chronicles the history of the Olympic torch. Olympic Games Image Gallery The opening ceremony is the end of a long journey for the Olympic torch. Greece. keeps us warm.Every two years. . The symbolic lighting of the Olympic flame marks the beginning of another historic Olympic Games. to the Olympic Games. And it will have passed through the hands of thousands of different people around the globe. Athletes would pass a lit torch to one another until the winner reached the finish line. History of the Torch Photo courtesy Morguefile Fire has always held great power for humans. boats. In Greek mythology. It may have crossed oceans and deserts and traversed mountains. and lights our way through the dark. reveals how it is designed to stay lit through even the harshest weather conditions. To celebrate the passing of fire from Prometheus to man. and follows its path from Olympia. it has traveled thousands of miles. the god Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans. It may have been carried on planes. the Greeks would hold relay races. bicycles. The ancient Greeks revered the power and fire. and even dog sleds. people around the world wait in anticipation as a torch-bearing runner enters the Olympic arena and lights the cauldron.
A constantly burning flame was a regular fixture throughout Greece. At the start of the Olympic Games. so that spectators could safely travel to the Olympics. runners called "heralds of peace" would travel throughout Greece. which. At the start of the Games. The flame would burn throughout the Games as a sign of purity.The Greeks held their first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. declaring a "sacred truce" to all wars between rival city-states. when the first modern Games were held in Athens. goddess of birth and marriage. The torch relay took a bit longer to reemerge. focused the sun's rays into a single point to light the flame. The Olympic Games did not reemerge until 1896. and the torch relays and lighting of the flame also stopped. there was an altar dedicated to Hera. The Olympics also marked the beginning of a period of peace for the often warring Greeks. In Olympia. It usually graced the altars of the Greek gods. reason. The Games. The Greeks stopped holding their Olympic Games after about a thousand years. The Birth of the Modern Torch Relay . They lit the flame using a hollow disc or mirror called a skaphia. honored Zeus and other Greek gods. held every four years at Olympia. The truce would remain in place for the duration of the games. much like the modern parabolic mirror. the Greeks would ignite a cauldron of flames upon Hera's altar. and peace.
Winter and Summer -. But since the 1964 Olympics at Innsbruck. followed by a torch relay to the Olympic stadium.England cricket player Kevin Pietersen carries the Olympic Torch on April 6. . Next. Germany. Greece. but there was no torch relay. every Olympic Games -.has begun with a torch-lighting ceremony in Olympia. for the start of the Olympics. but in Norway. Greece. we'll look at how designers and engineers create an Olympic torch. The torch relay was not introduced to the Winter Olympics until the 1952 Games. Greece. Carl Diem. The first Olympic torch relay was at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games. Austria. Ian Walton/Getty Images The flame was reintroduced to the Olympics at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. A cauldron was lit. Then it was carried to Berlin. The flame was lit in Olympia. England. a German history professor and Secretary General of the Organizing Committee of the Games introduced the relay as a way of reconnecting the modern Olympics with the Games' historical roots. 2008 in London. It was lit that year not in Olympia. just as it had been centuries before. which was chosen because it was the birthplace of skiing.
making sure that the torch can not only stay lit across the distance. it must be tested rigorously in all kinds of weather conditions. His design provided the basis for all future torches.. and replicated. It starts out as an idea in the mind of a designer or group of designers. The team that wins the assignment will design a torch that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional.areamediafiamma.000 to 15. A technical or engineering team handles the functional aspect. California. Anywhere from 10. but also make it through sometimes grueling conditions. it's thousands. A torch can take a year or two to design and build. The torch must then be replicated .Designing an Olympic Torch The 2006 Torino Olympic Torch Photo courtesy www. The look of the modern Olympic torch originated with John Hench. The first torch used in the modern Olympics (the 1936 Berlin Games) was made of a thin steel rod topped with a circular piece from which the flame rose.it/ Copyright © 2005 Torino 2006 ® The torch begins its journey long before the Olympic games commence. It's not just one torch making the journey to the Olympic stadium.000 torches are constructed to . Several design teams submit proposals to the Olympic Committee for the opportunity to create and build the torch. designers have tried to create a torch that represents the host country and the theme for that Olympic Games.. a Disney artist who designed the torch for the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. It was inscribed with a dedication to the runners. Since then. And once the torch has been built.
Each runner has the opportunity to purchase his torch at the end of his leg of the relay. the torch must always contain the same basic elements: • • • fuel to create the flame a fuel delivery system to get the flame out of the top of the torch an aerodynamic design that is both lightweight and safe for the runner to carry .andrewgrill. Torchbearer for the 2000 Sydney Games Photo courtesy www.accommodate the thousands of runners who carry them through each leg of the Olympic relay.com Although torch design and construction vary from year to year.
The Flame .Top view of 2002 Salt Lake City torch Photo courtesy Georgia Institute of Technology Photo by Sue Clites Let's take a look at the fuel that is used to create the flame.
ocean). Torches since that time have carried liquid fuels -. rain.ana. In the next section. The torch must also: • • • • Be light enough so that it is comfortable for each runner to carry (usually between 3 and 4 pounds or 1. but burn as a gas to produce a flame. The first liquid fuels were introduced at the 1972 Munich games. It must survive wind. Some torches used a mixture of hexamine (a mixture of formaldehyde and ammonia) and naphthalene (the hydrogen.4 and 1. we'll look at how the torch is constructed. and they were sometimes dangerous. snow. These substances weren't always the most efficient fuel sources. mountain. and a variety of climates (desert.gr The torch must stay lit the entire length of its journey.they are stored under pressure as a liquid. . early torches burned everything from gunpowder to olive oil. in case the leg takes longer than anticipated) Have a bright flame that is visible even on a sunny day For fuel. the final torch in the relay was lit by magnesium and aluminum. In the 1956 games. burning chunks of which fell from the torch and seared the runner's arms.8 kg) Protect the runner from the heat of the flame (as well as from hot debris falling from the flame) Carry enough fuel to stay lit for the entire leg (and a bit extra. Liquid fuel is safe for the runner and can be stored in a lightweight canister.A torchbearer carries the flame during the 2004 Athens Olympic Torch Relay. sleet. Photo courtesy www.and carbon-based substance in mothballs) with an igniting liquid.
.Torch Construction To get an idea of how a torch is constructed. let's look at two recent Olympic torches.
which produced a bright flame.not a plus for the environment. The tiny holes maintain a high pressure in the fuel to keep the flame going through harsh conditions. Because the propane/butane mix can be stored as a liquid under relatively light pressure. Shriver carried the 1996 torch to the top of a launch pad. Olympic torch came up with a more lightweight. Its aluminum base houses a small fuel tank. they decided on a mixture of 35 percent propane (the gas used to heat home stoves and barbecue grills) and 65 percent butane (cigarette lighter fuel). To fuel their torch. It then burns as a gas under normal atmospheric pressure. it can be kept in a lightweight container. . In 2000. the pressure drops. the creators of the Sydney. As the fuel squeezes through the small openings. Australia. which ignites a strong flame without making a lot of smoke. inexpensive. it is pushed through a brass valve with thousands of tiny openings. and environmentally friendly design. and the liquid fuel turns into a gas for burning. But because propylene contains a high level of carbon. As fuel rises through the handle. it builds pressure. Once it makes it through the openings. Photo courtesy NASA This is the torch designed for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. The 1996 torch was fueled by propylene.Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Operations Manager Loren J. it also produced a lot of smoke -.
so the flame always burns with the same intensity. Once it moves through the hole. The torch moves the liquid fuel at a consistent rate to the burner. causing the liquid to turn into a gas for burning. For the 2000 torch's underwater journey across the Great Barrier Reef. . The interior flame burns hotter. producing a blue flame that is small but very stable. there is a pressure drop. but it is unstable in winds.The liquid fuel is stored in an aluminum canister located about halfway up the torch. because its internal location protects it from the wind. This flame is big and bright orange. The torch can stay lit for about 15 minutes. The engineers behind both the 1996 and 2000 torches included a burner system that utilized a double flame. a specially designed flare was fitted inside the torch to keep the flame burning both in the water and on land. the liquid fuel is forced through a tiny hole. helping it to stay lit even in erratic winds. so it can be seen clearly. It flows up to the top of a torch through a pipe. able to relight the external flame should it go out. It acts like a pilot light. The external flame burns slowly and at a lower temperature than the internal flame. Before leaving the pipe.
just as it was in ancient times.31 inches (770 mm) long. Now let's see how the torch is lit to start the Olympic relay. The Torino torch burns 40% polypropylene/60% butane fuel from a pressurized canister. at the Temple of Hera. Photo courtesy ANA/Orestis Panagiotpu The Olympic torch is lit several months before the start of the actual games. The Lighting of the Olympic Torch Actress Thaleia Prokopiou ignites the Olympic Flame with the use of a parabolic mirror during a Torch Lighting practice session outside the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia. and its burner and fuel pipe are made from a brass and copper alloy. The Torino Torch The 2006 Olympic Relay torch is 30. It has an aluminum alloy shell. the curvature focuses the rays to a single point. An actress dressed as a ceremonial priestess. It is lit. She uses a parabolic mirror to focus light rays from the sun. Greece.Olympia. The energy from the sun .Future torch design will continue to evolve as technology improves and new fuels provide even greater safety and reliability. The parabolic mirror has a curved shape. The flame begins its journey at the site of the original Olympic Games -. in the robes of the ancient Greeks. lights the torch via the same technique used in the original Games. When it is held toward the sun. 2004.
Then.creates a great deal of heat. sparking a flame. Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images The Torch Relay . and the heat ignites the fuel in the torch. where it is used to light the first runner's torch. the priestess can light the torch with a flame that was lit on a sunny day before the ceremony. the relay begins. The last Torchbearer. the relay actually begins at the monument to Pierre de Coubertin (the man who founded the modern Olympic games in 1896). Greece's Olympic silver medalist Chrysopygi Devertzi holds the Olympic torch at the Panathinaikon stadium during the handover ceremony to China on March 30. The flame is carried in a fire pot to an altar in the ancient Olympic stadium. For the Winter Games. If the sun is not shining on the day of the lighting ceremony. which is located near the stadium. The priestess holds a torch in the center of the parabolic mirror. 2008.
During the 2006 Torino Olympic Torch Relay. and the stops that it will take along its way to the Opening Ceremony. as well as the theme. it is kept in a special cauldron until the relay begins once again the following day. It may also be ferried from place to place by car. the torch must be housed in a special container. much like a Miner's lamp.it/ Copyright © 2005 Torino 2006 ® The Olympic Torch Relay begins with the torch lighting in Olympia. the journey to the host city varies from year to year. the flame is typically stored in an enclosed lamp.areamediafiamma. At night. On airplanes. motorcycle. From there. The torch is generally carried from one country to another on a plane. a special torch was designed to burn underwater. modes of transportation for the torch. where open flames are not allowed. The Olympic Games Organizing Committee (OCOG) determines the route. horse. Once it arrives in a city. On certain legs of the relay. dog sled. Photo courtesy http://www. boat. a torchbearer passes the flame to a fellow torchbearer. bicycle. or virtually any other type of conveyance. For a trip across the Great Barrier Reef before the 2000 Olympic Games. it usually spends one day being carried from torchbearer to torchbearer on foot. Greece. .
an employee in the NASA Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics in Maryland. Photo courtesy Georgia Institute of Technology Photo by Stanley Leary As in any relay race. who created both the 1996 Atlanta torch and the 2002 Salt Lake City torch.Sam Shelton. . each runner carries the torch for only one short leg of its trip As a runner completes a leg. examines the Olympic Cauldron that holds the flame at various points during the relay. he lights the torch of the next person in the relay. Torchbearer Stephanie Stockman. passes the flame to the next runner.
Handicapped people can be (and have been) torchbearers -. A torchbearer in the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay lights her torch from the cauldron to begin another day of the relay in Greece. provided that he is at least 14 years old and is able to carry it for at least 400 meters (437 yards). boxing legend Muhammed Ali lit the Olympic cauldron to mark the start of the Games in Atlanta.Photo courtesy NASA It is considered a great privilege to be chosen as a torchbearer. But the brunt of the running is done by average citizens all around the world. Athletes. musicians. Photo courtesy ANA Almost anyone can carry a torch. The Olympic sponsors (for example. sports figures. The torchbearers are chosen by the Olympic sponsors and organizers. . and politicians have all carried the flame. actors. In 1996.they can carry the torch while riding in a wheelchair. usually because they have made a significant contribution to their community and because they personify the theme of that particular Olympics. Coca-Cola) also get to choose several torchbearers from within their organizations.
the media.gov Each torchbearer is accompanied by a caravan with security personnel. 11 attacks. At the end of the relay. President George W. That individual runs around the stadium track once. He announced two torchbearers. signaling the official start of the Olympic games.U. The identity of that torchbearer is usually kept secret until the last moment. .S. then lights the Olympic cauldron. or an individual who has made a very special contribution to society. a medical team. the last torchbearer enters the Olympic stadium in the host city. both of whom were profoundly affected by the Sept. sports figure. Liz Howell and Eric Jones. Bush speaks during the Olympic Torch Relay Ceremony at the White House. Photo courtesy Whitehouse. The final torchbearer is usually an Olympic athlete. and extra torches in case the torch the runner is carrying goes out.
com When the competition ends about two weeks later.andrewgrill. check out the links on the next page. the flame is extinguished at the Closing Ceremony. and related topics. To find out more about the Olympics.Opening Ceremony of 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney Photo courtesy www. the torch. marking the end of the Games. .
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