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The Olympic Torch – History and Meaning

© by Source: Charly Triballeau/Getty Images

With the Olympic Games season in full bloom, we thought this could be a great opportunity to look into the Olympic torch. It is a symbol that downgrades every year at the beginning of each season, and it has been for a very long time. Therefore, it is natural to wonder what is the actual meaning behind all this, even if your favorite game is slots, or gymnastics! After a little bit of research, we found the answer. If you are curious too, keep reading!

How does it appear?

Even though over the years we witnessed the torch being carried underwater or flown through the sky, other sacred rituals were preserved. One of them is the manner in which it appears. The flame bursts in Olympia, in a unique way, through sunlight reflected off a parabolic mirror. This act is put together to represent the sun God Apollo. This year, the flame was lit in March, and ever since, it has been making its way to Tokyo via plane and road. 

Usually, the torch would be passed hand to hand in huge crowds of runners, until it reached the main stadium. Even if this year has been an exception, the final destination remains the same: the Olympic cauldron.

The significance of the Olympic cauldron

Speaking of it, its appearance is also important and holds cultural significance. It is customized in order to resemble an important part of the host’s country identity. For example, in 2000, the sleek architecture of the Sydney Opera House was embodied, in 2014 a folkloric phoenix feather, an omen of good fortune in Russia, and in 2016 the natural beauty of the Brazilian landscape. 

This year, the torch has a cherry blossom shape and is called “sakura pink”. Through this design, five individual flames are merged into five. Designer Tokujin Yoshioka claimed that this is a symbol of hope and recovery, referring to the natural disasters that struck Japan a decade ago. The motto that comes with it is ”Hope Lights Our Way”, and each petal symbolizes “a wish for peace and for the world to come together as one”. 

The history behind the Olympic torch

It is true that the Olympic torch has ancient origins, but it is also highly influenced by a relatively modern affair. It is believed that during ancient times, there was not really a torch burning, but rather an altar, which represented international unity. The first relay started from Olympia all the way to the German capital. Over the course of 12 days and almost 2.000 miles, the torch was passed hand by hand through Athens, Sofia, Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna and Prague.  

Ever since, the tradition has been kept alive. The routes might differ from year to year, as they can take anywhere from days to months, and always with backup flames in case anything happens. They are also from the original source in Olympia, and they are carried alongside the torch in miner’s lamps. The designs of the cauldrons have also evolved during the years, as they are usually selected by the host city’s organizing committee and now come from esteemed designers and artists.

We hope this piece of information proved useful and you had the chance to learn something new! We can not wait to see what this year’s Olympic games have in store for us!