Yesterday, as I left work, a man walked towards me carrying a daffodil in an empty wine bottle. “That’s beautiful!” I said, for the single flower was in full bloom and leaping with life. The man replied happily “it’s the Olympic Torch!” before wandering off with a somewhat inebriated gait into the distance...
The custom of lighting the Olympic Torch in Greece and carrying it by relay throughout the land where the games are due to be held originated in the earliest Olympic Games. In Greek mythology Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain, was the home of twelve Gods (sometimes called the Olympian Gods), ruled by Zeus and Hera. In Ancient Greece during the Games Hera’s altar carried a constantly burning flame; messengers would travel the country to let people know the Games were due to start, the idea being that during this time of sporting competition all wars and conflict should cease.
On 10 May 2012 the Olympic Torch will be lit by the rays of the sun at Hera’s temple on Mount Olympia, after which it will travel by relay throughout Greece, reaching Athens on 17 May. The flame will then be flown to the UK, arriving in Cornwall late on 18 May. The torch will be taken to Lands End, the official starting place for the Olympic Torch Relay 2012. Between 19 May and 27 July the Olympic Flame will be carried throughout the UK by 8,000 torch bearers over 70 days. The torch will pass within 10 miles of 95% of people living in the UK, arriving in central London on the final day of the relay.
The 2012 Olympic Torch was designed by Londoners Jay Osgerby and Edward Barber. It is 800 mm tall and is decorated with 8,000 circles to represent the 8,000 torch bearers who will carry the flame around the UK. Torchbearers have been nominated by the public who were asked to put forward people inspirational people; due to the high number of applications places went to roughly 1 in 11 nominees.
There will also be a Paralympic Torch Relay from 24-29 August 2012. Flames will be lit in each of the UK’s capital cities – London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff - and will then be taken around each city before being combined at Stoke Mandeville in London to create the London Paralympic Flame. The torch will then be relayed over 24 hours to the Olympic Stadium to celebrate the start of the London Paralympic Games.
If you would like the chance to review some of the highlights of previous Olympic Games you may enjoy watching The Olympic Series: Golden Moments 1920-2002.