Ancient Olympic Games - Olympic Torchbearers
A man running, carrying the Olympic Torch.
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The Olympic flame is a symbol of the Olympic Games. Commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, its origins lie in ancient Greece, where a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics. The fire was introduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and it has been part of the modern Olympic Games ever since. In contrast to the Olympic flame proper, the torch relay of modern times, which transports the flame from Greece to the various designated sites of the games, had no ancient precedent and was introduced by Carl Diem at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The Olympic Torch today is ignited several months before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece. Eleven women, representing the Vestal Virgins,[notes 1] perform a celebration at the Temple of Hera in which the torch is kindled by the light of the Sun, its rays concentrated by a parabolic mirror. The torch briefly travels around Greece via short relay, and then starts its transfer to the host city after a ceremony in the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens.
The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final carrier is often kept unannounced until the last moment, and is usually a sports celebrity of the host country. The final bearer of the torch runs towards the cauldron, often placed at the top of a grand staircase, and then uses the torch to start the flame in the arena. It is considered to be a great honor to be asked to light the Olympic flame. After being lit, the flame continues to burn throughout the Games, until the day of the closing ceremony and celebration, when it is finally put out.
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