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Olympic Torch Relay Highlights

The relay of peace – London 1948

In a Europe sorely afflicted by the war, the 1948 relay carried a welcome message of peace. The first runner, Corporal Dimitrelis, took off his military uniform before carrying the flame, commemorating the sacred truce observed in Ancient Greece. The planned route highlighted border crossings, where festivities were organised to celebrate the return of peace. In homage to the restorer of the Olympic Games, the relay passed through Lausanne, Switzerland and a ceremony was organised at Pierre de Coubertin‟s tomb in the Bois-de-Vaux cemetery.

The ancient Relay – Rome 1960

The relay shone the spotlight on the two poles of classical civilisation: Athens and Rome. Lesser-known ancient sites in Greece and Italy were thus brought to the public‟s attention. For the first time, the relay was televised and the event closely followed by the media.

The relay to the New World – Mexico City 1968

The relay retraced the steps of Christopher Columbus to the New World. The idea was to underline the link between Mediterranean and Latin-American civilisations and between ancient (Greco-Latin) and Pre-Hispanic civilisations. A direct descendant of the great navigator, Cristóbal Colón de Carbajal, was the last runner on Spanish soil. The Olympic flame made a stop at the Great Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan. A “New Fire” ceremony was organised which, in the Aztec tradition, was celebrated to mark the end of a 52-year cycle. The reappearance of the sun at dawn symbolised the renewal of the world.

The Korean relay “Harmony and progress”– Seoul 1988

The relay showcased the traditions of Korea. Its route, which was a zigzag from east to west, symbolised the harmony to be found in the balance between two opposite poles. Some of the torchbearers did not wear the official uniform provided by the Games Organising Committee, but instead wore regional or traditional costumes.

The “Down Under” relay – Sydney 2000

Copyright: Getty

The relay had a twofold goal: to situate Australia within Oceania and to promote the culture and heritage of the different regions in the country. The Torch relay visited 12 Oceanic countries before it arrived in Australia. The start of the relay on the Australian continent was in the “red centre” at Uluru (Ayer‟s Rock), a sacred site for the indigenous population. The Aboriginal athlete Nova Peris-Kneebone, Olympic field hockey champion, was the first runner in the relay. The enthusiasm of the crowd along the relay route grew bigger and bigger. One million spectators welcomed the arrival of the flame in Sydney. In a ceremony which recalled the elements used in the design of the torch (fire, water, earth), Cathy Freeman “walked on water” before lighting a circle of fire which revealed itself to be the monumental cauldron.

 Copyright: Ben Elters. Allsport AUS /Allsport