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Olympic Flame

The Olympic Flame, symbolising the Olympic ideal, has become an integral part of the celebration of the Olympic Games.

The flame is lit in ancient Olympia, Greece and is then transported, by foot where possible, to the site where the next Olympics are held. Each runner carries the torch with the Olympic Flame for a short distance before handing it over to another runner. This relay ends at the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final carrier of the torch, usually a sports celebrity of the host country, runs towards the cauldron or urn usually (but not always) at the top of a grand staircase, who then uses the torch to start the flame in the stadium which burns throughout the celebration of the Olympics. It is extinguished at the closing ceremony.


The Olympic Flame in the ancient Olympic Games held in and around Olympia, Greece was lit in honor of the king of the Greek gods, Zeus. Today, the Olympic torch is ignited (about 10 months) before the opening of its respective Olympic Games, by 11 actors playing priestesses in Olympia by placing it in a concave lens which concentrates rays from the sun; it turn igniting the torch.

The Olympic Flame first burned at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, although there was no torch relay, and the flame was not lit by any specific person.

By an idea of Carl Diem, the torch relay was first held at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Since then, the torch relay and the lighting of the Olympic Flame have been a part of every celebration of the Summer Olympics. The flame for the Winter Olympics was first lighted before the 1952 Winter Olympics. For that occasion, the flame was lit in the house of Sondre Norheim, a Norwegian pioneer of winter sports.

In the 1960 Winter Olympics, John Hench's torch design was introduced, a model used for many years to come.


The people that have lit the Olympic Flame are listed below. As the equestrian events in 1956 were held in Stockholm, there were two flames lit in that year.

Olympic Flame
1936 Summer OlympicsFritz Schilgen
1948 Summer OlympicsJohn Mark
1952 Winter OlympicsEigil Nansen
1952 Summer OlympicsPaavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen
1956 Winter OlympicsGuido Caroli
1956 Summer Olympics
(equestrian events)
Ron Clarke
Hans Wikne
1960 Winter OlympicsKen Henry
1960 Summer OlympicsGiancarlo Peris
1964 Winter OlympicsJoseph Rieder
1964 Summer OlympicsYoshinori Sakai
1968 Winter OlympicsAlain Calmat
1968 Summer OlympicsNorma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo
1972 Winter OlympicsHideki Takada
1972 Summer OlympicsGünther Zahn
1976 Winter OlympicsChristl Haas and Josef Feistmantl
1976 Summer OlympicsStéphane Préfontaine and Sandra Henderson
1980 Winter OlympicsCharles Kerr
1980 Summer OlympicsSergey Belov
1984 Winter OlympicsSandra Dubravcic
1984 Summer OlympicsRafer Johnson
1988 Winter OlympicsRobyn Perry
1988 Summer OlympicsChung Sun-Man, Kim Won-Tak and Sohn Mi-Chung
1992 Winter OlympicsMichel Platini and François-Cyrille Grange
1992 Summer OlympicsAntonio Rebollo
1994 Winter OlympicsCrown Prince Haakon of Norway
1996 Summer OlympicsMuhammad Ali
1998 Winter OlympicsMidori Ito
2000 Summer OlympicsCathy Freeman
2002 Winter OlympicsUS 1980 Olympic ice hockey team