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06 Aug 2004
IOC News

The Olympic flame nears Athens

With only a few days to go before the opening of the Olympic Games in Athens, the Olympic flame is now in the Ionian islands of Cephalonia, Lefkada and Corfu. It will reach the Olympic Stadium in Athens in the evening of 13 August, marking the start of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad. Lit in Olympia on 25 March 2004, the flame travelled round the world before returning to Greece on 9 July.

Five continents in 78 days
Celebrating the universality of the Games, the flame relay has for the first time visited all five continents. In 78 days, the flame will have covered more than 78,000 km by land, sea and air. Visiting every previous host city, it has also passed through symbolic locations such as Lausanne, home of the IOC and Olympic Capital, and Beijing, host city of the next Games of the Olympiad.

More than 10,000 people
More than 10,000 people are taking part in the torch relay, each running 400 metres. The torch is being carried by athletes, personalities and thousands of ordinary people chosen for their exemplary commitment to Olympism: individuals who, by serving others, embody the motto of the relay: “Pass the flame, unite the world”.

The name of the person who will light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games is kept secret right up to the last moment. Choosing the person who will have his honour is particularly symbolic for the host country.

Olive leaf
The Olympic torch design for the 2004 Games in Athens is based around the olive tree, an important symbol in Greece. It looks like an olive leaf, with the same harmonious shape. Weighing 700 grams and 68 cm long, it is made of metal (magnesium) and wood (olive).

The flame at the Ancient Olympic Games
The history of the Olympic flame goes back to the Ancient Olympic Games. During the Games, it remained constantly alight at Olympia. The torch relay made its first appearance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Since then, the relay and the lighting of the cauldron have been a key part of Olympic protocol, symbolising the start of the Games.

Learn more on Athens 2004

Official website of Athens 2004
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