Olympic Torch History
The lighting of the stadium flame is the culmination of the Olympic opening ceremonies, and the Olympic torch history is a fascinating one. The Olympic torch is always lit in Olympia, Greece. An actress dressed as a priestess lights the flame among the ruins of the Temple of Hera in a costumed ceremony based on the rituals of antiquity.
The flame is ignited using the rays of the sun reflected off mirrors. The flame is then placed in an urn and taken to the ruins of the original Olympic stadium, where the priestess passes the flame to the first runner and the relay begins. The first leg of the relay is from Olympia to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the first modern Olympic games were held. From Athens, the torch proceeds to the host city.
The first Olympic torch relay took place in 1936. Roads were specially constructed because at the time, Olympia was difficult to access. The first Olympic winter games torch relay didn't take place until the Oslo games of 1952. The first winter games torch flame was lit in the Morgedal Valley of Norway, considered the birthplace of skiing. Since 1964 the winter torch relay has also begun in Olympia.
Though the relay is traditionally performed on foot, other modes of transport for the Olympic flame have been used throughout the years. Usually fire and water don't mix, but the Olympic torch has been carried in water several times. Swimmers braved the waters with the torch in 1968 for both the summer games in Mexico City, Mexico, and the winter games in Grenoble, France. The 2000 Sydney games take the cake though, when a diver bore the Olympic torch and flame underwater. The Olympic torch and flame took to the skies via airplane for the 1952 Oslo games and flameless torches have been born by astronauts on the space shuttle.