Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Olympic Torch and relay ...

The Olympic Flame is a symbol of the Games ... commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus ... a fire was kept burning throughout the celebrations of the ancient Olympics.

Close up of the torch logo

The fire was reintroduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam – whereas the torch relay of modern times had no ancient precedent and was introduced by Carl Diem at the controversial 1936 Summer Games in Berlin.

The torch is ignited at the Temple of Hera in Olympia several months before the opening ceremony – when eleven women, representing the Vestal Virgins, perform a celebration in which the torch is kindled by the light of the sun, its rays concentrated by a parabolic mirror.

Panathinaido Stadium

Then it briefly travels around Greece to the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens before being ‘air-lifted’ in our case to Great Britain at its most westerly county, Cornwall – there the 70 day relay began.

The design of the torch has been cleverly worked out those circular holes represent the inspirational stories of the 8,000 torchbearers – while also allowing a view of the burner system which keeps the flame alight (unless you have torrential downpours as we’ve had this year) ...

The torch

... oh interestingly I’ve just noticed that it was being tested at BMW’s climatic testing facility in Munich to make sure it can withstand all weathers – I think the all British weathers beat the testing facility?!

The torches stand 800 mm high (31.5”), while weighing as little as possible – 800 grams ... as more than half of the torchbearers were youngsters or suffering from some form of challenge ...

Ben Nevis
... the special aluminium alloy has been developed in the aerospace and automotive industries – the alloy is lightweight but strong – while those intentional holes reduce the weight of the final design.

The triangular shape was inspired by a series of ‘threes’ that are found in the history of the Olympic Games and the vision for the Olympic Movement:

·        values of respect, excellence and friendship;

·        the words of the Olympic motto – faster, higher, stronger

·        the fact the UK has hosted the Olympic games in 1908, 1948 and 2012

·        the vision for this Games is to combine three bodies of work – sport, education and culture.

The gold colour embraces the qualities of the Olympic Flame – the brightness and the warmth of the light that it shines.

A Viking welcome in the Shetland Islands for the torch

The torch relay went around the country ... over to Northern Ireland, across the water to the Shetland Islands (and the Vikings) and the Isle of Wight, up mountains – Ben Nevis and Snowdon – across valleys, to historic sites and on to the iconic landmarks of London.

So the torch on its route has been spreading the message of peace, unity and friendship ... at the closing ceremony the flame will be extinguished – the final day of the Games.

The Isle of Wight

The fact the torch started its journey in Cornwall is right and fit – as the mechanism that kept the flame alight is the Davy lamp – the safety lamp invented by Sir Humphry Davy from Penzance used by miners around the world ... his statue stands in Market Jew Street in the town.

Sir Humphry Davy statue,
Market Jew Street, Penzance

On reaching London the torch had a speedboat trip along the Thames, then Sir Steve Redgrave the five times Olympic gold medallist rower travelled with it in the Gloriana the Royal Barge to the Opening Ceremony.

Each of the seven youngsters nominated by seven Olympic heroes  lit a tiny flame ...which after being ignited lit 205 copper petals, one for each competing nation or territory, that then rose on long stems to converge and form a cauldron signifying unity and peace.

Thomas Heatherwick who designed the cauldron has been described by Sir Terence Conran (Habitat) as the “Leonardo da Vinci of our times”...

The seven heroes and seven incredibly talented youngsters are:

·        Sir Steve Redgrave chose Cameron MacRitchie a 19 year old rower;

·        Sailor Shirley Robertson selected Callum Airlie – 17 years old;

·        Swimmer Duncan Goodhew put forward 18 year old Jordan Duckitt – he was chair of the London 2012 Young Ambassador Steering Group for two years;

·        Desiree Henry, 16, was nominated by Daley Thompson, who won the 200m title at the World Youth Championships in 2011

·        Dame Mary Peters nominated Katie Kirk, a successful 400m European junior runner

·        Long Jumper Lynn Davies (1964) opted for javelin thrower Aidan Reynolds ... 18 year old has won three medals

·        Dame Kelly Holmes’ nominee was Adelle Tracey – the 19 year old runner ... who has been top of the UK rankings for the past 6 years.

The copper petals joining to form the
Olympic Flame in 2012

It was a fitting end for the torch in this Jubilee year to be carried down that life giving force that is the Thames to the Norman and Medieval London that exists today – perhaps hidden, but still obvious if we look.

Drawing together more flames of Olympic life for future generations to be inspired by ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Old Kitty said...

I still kick myself for having missed the torch relay just up the road from me by seconds! I'll never forget running up the pavement only to be met by groups walking opposite me - one told me it was over! LOL!

I absolutely loved loved loved the symbolism of the copper petalled Olympic flame - it was wonderful to have all countries represented and lit by the future generation!

Take care

Linda said...

Hilary, thank you for sharing the travels of the Olympic torch, and peek into it's history and modern design.

Unknown said...

How interesting! I think the way the torch was brought together in the end was wonderful.

Jo said...

Very interesting Hilary, didn't see any of the relays here last time, but great to know the history and the story of its journey. I didn't know it was lit by sun light - what do they do on a cloudy day?

The cauldron was a big surprise to me and I think it is great, only a pity that no-one can see it outside the stadium.

Karen Walker said...

When we were in Olympia, Greece, our guide told us the torch represented peace.

Golden Eagle said...

I didn't know much about the Olympic torch before--interesting symbolism!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary,

Great job on giving the history of the Olympic Torch. I've never thought much about the background although I like watching them light the Olympic flame.

Welcome back,
Susan :)

Chuck said...

Hilary, thanks again for bringing out more meaning to the Games and their symbols. I can imagine the pride in Great Britain as the torch wound its way through hill and dale. Those kids must feel honored to be selected to represent the future. The games have been great!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Old Kitty - ours went a funny route and didn't come this side of town, and I didn't get out to see it .. sorry you missed yours though.

Those copper petal burners are so clever aren't they - and then all the thought that's gone into creating the torch.

@ Linda - glad you enjoyed the torch's travels ... it's been everywhere and with lots of celebratory parties and recognition for many.

@ Clarissa - I'd have loved to have posted more pictures - but as you say the 'miraculous' appearance of the torch turning into a cauldron was fascinating.

@ Jo - the torch route has been fully covered here in local papers and they've had events put on for the torch's arrival - wish I'd been able to pay a bit more attention.

I have no idea about cloudy days - not many (in the sky) in Greece .. but the engineers would have some bright back up scheme - I'm sure!

They've put screens up outside so people can see the cauldron .. and there was talk of putting it into the Orbit art work .. I think that might have made the steel too hot - apparently you can feel the heat if you're sitting near the cauldron: but it stays inside the Stadium.

@ Karen - now I know where Olympia is .. I tried to put a map up - but it took the positioning of Olympia out! I think of you now and your visit to Olympia ....

@ Golden Eagle - good to see you and that you enjoyed the symbolism.

@ Susan - glad you've enjoyed this information, and I'd never paid much attention to the torch relay before and I don't know if other countries have had a relay that goes on over two months ... the lighting of the cauldron was pretty special. Thank you!

@ Chuck - excellent you're enjoying these few posts ... the relay seemed to bring communities together, which was then used to acknowledge so many unsung heroes and give hope to many ... young and old. Delighted you're enjoying the Games ..

Thanks so much for being here - enjoy the rest of the week .. cheers Hilary

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Such an interesting post, Hilary! My daughter was asking me during the opening ceremonies how much the torch weighed, and I had no idea! Glad to be able to tell her now how light it is.

jabblog said...

Very interesting, Hilary. I liked your post on the bouquets, too - it's good to understand the symbolism.

ana said...

Hi Hilary very interesting.I'm watching most of the games,my favorite is the gimnastics.
TAke care

Unknown said...

Hi Hilary. Loved this post about the OL torch. Cheers :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a deep post on the Olympic Torch. I'm looking forward to buying the DVD of this Olympics. I love watching these. And Mr. Bean was classic at the opening ceremonies!

Gattina said...

Interesting post ! when I arrived in London the 26th I had completely forgotten about the Olympic games so I was quiet surprised by the heartly welcome in St. Pancras station, lots of atlethes had been with me in the same Eurostar :) ! Then on my way to Stonehenge I saw people lined up near Buckingham palace waiting for the torch, and in Eastbourne I missed it by 2 or 3 days ! BTW I had a wonderful stay ! But no time for museums and then the sea was so nice !

Inger said...

That cauldron is just beautiful and so clever too. It was quite something to see it being lit at the opening ceremonies. I saw the Olympic torch in 2002 as it made its way through Los Angeles for the Winter Games. I am glad I got up and went out to see it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elizabeth - delighted you've got your information now ...

@ Janice - thanks re both comments - it is good to find out a little more behind the scenes info (as such) ..

@ Ana - the gymnastics have been amazing haven't they - hope you saw Olga Korbut? - the1972 champion .. she's been in London ... she has a wonderful face and smile

@ Siv - glad you enjoyed the torch info ...

@ Stephen - yes the DVD should be good ..I'd love to see the Opening Ceremony again - I suspect they'll show us that over Christmas sometime ... Mr Bean was classic Brit wasn't he ...

@ Gattina - the supporters/ volunteers have been been wonderful - they helped me when I went to Scotland.

Then you had your entourage with you - did you on your trip over - the Eurostar is good isn't it.

How wonderful you've seen a bit - and been involved a little in the Olympics ... not to worry re the Museum (small and personal one in Eastbourne) .. glad you enjoyed the seaside though.

@ Inger - those copper petals were amazing weren't they and so clever - as you say. Well done on seeing the torch in 2002 in LA, when you were still there ..

Cheers everyone - so pleased to see you - Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I knew your posts on the Olympics would put the news coverage to shame. There's a blackout here. We aren't seeing anything. Thanks, Hilary, for all the history. Fascinating.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

This year's torch is one of the most amazing I've ever seen.

Juliet said...

i love that mix of old and new - the Vestal virgins starting it off, but modern technology being used for the torch. All so interesting Hilary, thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joylene .. how sad that you're not able to access any - that seems very strange.

I'm behind as to be expected with my blog posting .. so it my a retrospective year for me!

So pleased you've enjoyed the few I've done though - lovely to see you ..

@ Alex - whoever organised the torch relays seems to have got it right - everyone has loved it - despite the torrential downpours we had ... gosh the rain at times was terrible and they carried on with the relays and runs etc ...

@ Juliet - they seem to have a format for the Olympics and its traditions ... the Davy Lamp was an excellent addition for the Brits .. and it flew on occasions ...

Thanks Joylene, Alex and Juliet - so good to see you .. cheers Hilary