London Olympics 2012 : Olympic Torch Relay History
The Olympic Flame, Torch and Relay draw on a history going back to the ancient Olympic Games in Greece.
The ancient Games
The Torch and Relay were important elements of the cultural festivals surrounding the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece.
During the Games, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess, Hera. In addition, heralds were summoned to travel throughout Greece to announce the Games, declaring a sacred truce for the duration.
Spreading the light from Greece: the modern Games
A very precise ritual for the lighting of the Flame is followed at every Games. It is lit from the sun's rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, in a traditional ceremony among the ruins of the home of the ancient Games.
After a short relay around Greece, the Flame is handed over to the new Host City at another ceremony in the Panathenaiko stadium in Athens.
The Flame is then delivered to the Host Country, where it is transferred from one Torchbearer to another, spreading the message of peace, unity and friendship. It ends its journey as the last Torchbearer lights the cauldron at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, marking the official start of the Games.
The Flame is extinguished on the final day of the Games, at the Closing Ceremony.