Historical Events  Geography
Olympic Flame Relay

Ancient Greeks

Nazi Germany

Who started the Olympic flame relay?

We're all familiar with the origin of the Olympic games.

Starting in ancient Greece from the 8th century BC, in the city which bears it's name, Olympia, they ran until the 4th century AD before being started again in the modern era with the first being held in Athens in 1896. Of great significance is the opening ceremony, for which in turn the famous Olympic Torch plays a huge role.

Just as well known is the relay the torch is carried through, traditionally starting from Olympia, before lighting the cauldron during the opening ceremony and finally being extinguished at the closing ceremony. What surprises many people is that this relay only began with the Nazis introducing it for propaganda purposes when Germany hosted the Olympics in 1936, since they were sure it had been a feature of the Olympics all along.


The flame itself made its first appearance in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Said to have been stolen from the Gods by Prometheus, the idea of the flame has it's roots in Greek mythology. The idea was taken from the way the ancient Greeks kept a fire going for the duration of the games. The idea of attaching ceremony to it being lit, having been transported alight directly from the birthplace in Olympia, Greece was the brainchild of the Nazis under Joseph Goebbels, their Minister of Propaganda.

The first time the flame was transported was from Olympia to Berlin and it took.3,331 runners 12 days and 11 night to relay it 3,187 kilometers. Since the problems leading up to WW2 were growing in various other nations, it had to be guarded by the Nazis from protesters along the way in some other countries such as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. It is lit in Olympia by the sun - a specially shaped mirror concentrates light to a point hot enough to ignite it.