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02 Feb 2006
Olympic News

TORINO 2006: The Olympic Flame

As the Torino 2006 Olympic Torch Relay prepares to enter its final week on the road to Turin, it is perhaps time to reflect upon the origins and the meaning of the Olympic flame. What are the origins of the flame, how is it lit, how does it get to the Olympic stadium and what does it represent today?
Origins Of The Flame
The ancient Greeks considered fire to be a divine element and they maintained perpetual fires in front of their principal temples. This was the case in the sanctuary of Olympia where the Ancient Olympic Games took place. A flame burned permanently on the altar of the goddess Hestia, situated in the Prytaneum (building used for the large banquets held in honour of the athletes at the end of the Games), and such fires were also lit on the altars of Zeus and Hera, the temple in front of which the Olympic flame is lit today.
Lighting The Flame
In ancient times, the flame was lit using the rays of the sun, to ensure its purity, and a skaphia, the ancestor of the parabolic mirror used today for lighting the Olympic flame. Today, the flame is lit by an actress playing the part of a priestess in front of the ruins of the temple of Hera in Olympia, and the choreography and costumes used in the ceremony are based upon those of Antiquity. The Olympic flame is then lit using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror before being passed to the first torch bearer. The Olympic flame may only be lit using the rays of the sun.
The Olympic Torch Relay
The flame is carried by a relay all the way to its final destination: the Olympic Stadium in the Host City of the upcoming Olympic Games. Although this is normally by runners exchanging the flame on the relay route, the flame may also be transported by other means such as boat, airplane, car or even transmitted by satellite. When the flame finally arrives at its destination, the final torchbearer will run a lap of the stadium before the flame is used to light the Olympic cauldron, which remains lit for the duration of the Games and is only extinguished at the Closing Ceremony of the Games.
The Flame And The Relay Today
In the context of the modern Games, the Olympic flame is a manifestation of the positive values that Man has always associated with fire. Like the messengers who proclaimed the sacred truce, the runners who carry the Olympic flame encourage the whole world to put down their weapons and turn towards the Games. The choice of Olympia as a departure point emphasises the link between the Ancient and Modern Games and underlines the profound connection between these two events.
The Flame Unites Us All
Talking of the power of the Olympic flame to bring people together during his speech at the start of the Torino 2006 Olympic Torch Relay, IOC President Jacques Rogge said, “Whether male or female, young or old, able-bodied or disabled, high-level athlete or amateur, whether we live in a wealthy or a developing country, the flame unites us all.”
The Olympic Winter Games will run from 10 to 26 February 2006 in Turin. The Winter Games comprise seven different sports and 15 different disciplines, which will be played out in eight different competition sites. Around 2,600 athletes, 650 judges and umpires and one million spectators are expected to participate in this 20th edition of the Winter Games.

Click below and discover the torch of the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy (Cult 3D plug-in required, click here to download).

 Learn more on the Olympic Torch Relay
Learn more on Turin 2006
Official website of Turin 2006
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