(Olympia, Greece) – On Thursday April 21, 2016, the Olympic Torch was lit during a ceremony in Ancient Olympia at the Temple of Hera. From there, it journeyed to Pyrgos, where Emmouil Karalis, the world record holder for junior pole vault, used it to light a large cauldron. From there, the torch journeyed to Zakynthos, Corfu, and other places throughout Greece. The Olympic Torch will spend six days journeying throughout Greece before moving on to Switzerland where both the United Nations and the World Olympic Committee are headquartered. From there, it will head to Rio de Janeiro where the 2016 Olympic Games will be held. Its journey in Greece ends on April 27 at the Panathenaic Stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.
The Olympic Torch Relay is something that came about fairly recently in Olympic history. It didn’t exist in Ancient Greece and in fact, it wasn’t part of our modern Olympic tradition until the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This year marks the 80th Anniversary of the Olympic Torch Relay and cities throughout the world will celebrate that fact as the torch passes through. Once it reaches Brazil, the torch will light a large cauldron at Maracanã Stadium before it travels through Brazil for 95 days across 12,500 miles. The torch’s journey will end during the opening ceremony for the Olympic games, which will be held on August 5, 2016 at Maracanã Stadium.
The theme of this year’s Olympic Torch Lighting Ceremony was solidarity. Like many countries throughout the world, Greece and Brazil have had their share of political and economic difficulties. The Olympic Torch Lighting Ceremony, Olympic Torch Relay, and the Olympic Games give us all a chance to put those difficulties. Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee said during his speech, “These Olympic Games will be a message of hope in troubled times – and the flame will carry this message into all corners of Brazil and, indeed, all the world. In these difficult days that Brazil is facing, the flame is a timeless reminder that we are all part of the same humanity. The flame is an ancient symbol of peace and harmony, a symbol of the power of humanity to come together despite our differences. This will be the greatest legacy of the Olympic Games for Brazil and for the world.”