Video: 2012 Olympic flame lighting ceremony- London 2012 Olympics: organizers hoping torch relay will ignite slow-burning enthusiasm

London 2012 Olympics: organizers hoping torch relay will ignite slow-burning enthusiasm back home
The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about legacy. Athletes first gathered to compete at the stadium in Olympia, which will on Thursday stage the lighting of the London 2012 torch, almost 2,800 years ago.
By Paul Kelso
The Telegraph
On Wednesday, as final rehearsals for the lighting ceremony took place amid the tumbledown columns and olive groves, schoolchildren ran impromptu foot races from the same grooved marble start line into which those early heroes curled their toes.
At its most basic, Lord Coe’s mission is to use the London Olympic Games to inspire similar enthusiasm and, on Thursday, he will take part in a ceremony he hopes will accelerate Britain’s slow-burning enthusiasm for the Games.
The torch relay has no direct links to antiquity. The only flames that burned at Olympia’s Games were in cauldrons at each corner of the stadium, lit to discourage the swarms of insects drawn by 40,000 spectators to a five-day event that was part-Woodstock, part World Championships.
The entire ceremony is a confection, a ritual dreamt up by Nazi propagandists for the 1936 Games and which now constitutes a marketing tool for the International Olympic Committee and its sponsors. The High Priestess who will light the flame from the sun’s rays on Thursday is a classical actress from Athens, the dancing and music are choreographed and the entire event will be streamed online.
It is synthetic symbolism, and London’s challenge is to transform it into something tangible that justifies the public investment – financial and emotional – in the 2012 Games.
The traditional Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony took place on May 10, 2012 at the Temple of Hear, Olympia, home of the Ancient Olympic Games.
The torch relay will travel around Greece, and will arrive at the Panathinaiko Stadium, in Athens on May 17, 2012 for the Handover Ceremony, where the torch will then travel to the United Kingdom and arrive at RNAS Culdrose, Helston, Cornwall on May 18, 2012. The relay will last 70 days, with 66 evening celebrations, 6 Island Visits with about 8,000 people carrying the torch a total distance of about 8,000 miles (12,800 km), starting from Land’s End in Cornwall.
Video: Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony London 2012
Olympics-Torch relay pioneered at Germany’s Nazi -Berlin Olympic Games
By John Mehaffey
Mist clears to reveal white marble images from classical Greece culminating in Myron’s celebrated statue of an athlete poised to launch a discus in the prologue to Leni Riefenstahl’s remarkable documentary film “Olympia”.
The statue rotates and melts into an identical image of a contemporary discus thrower. It is succeeded by further paeans to the sculptured Greek ideal of physical beauty with pictures of a shot putter, a javelin thrower and rhythmic gymnasts.
Finally, flame floods the screen followed by a bare-chested runner embarking on the first torch relay of the modern Olympics.
Like the remainder of Riefenstahl’s lengthy masterwork, the relay footage is both haunting and disturbing.
The torch travels from Olympia in Greece through Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Berlin and the 1936 Nazi Games. It is a journey the German army was destined to retrace.
A mighty roar and a sea of fascist salutes greets the final torchbearer Fritz Schilgen as he runs into the Berlin stadium to light the cauldron. Greece lead the 51 nations parading at the opening ceremony, under the gaze of German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.
The flame, the five rings, the Olympic oath, the hymn and the anthems were products of the fanatical nationalism poisoning Europe during the inter-war years.
At the suggestion of Berlin Games organiser Carl Diem the torch relay was added, with more than 3,000 runners bearing the torch over 3,187 kms.
The classical origins of the Olympic flame stem from the theft of fire from the Olympian god Zeus by Prometheus and gifted to mankind.
At Olympia, site of the ancient Games, a flame burned at the altar of Hestia, goddess and guardian of fire. It was introduced to the modern Games in Amsterdam in 1928 and burned again in Los Angeles four years later.
Boosted by enthusiastic radio coverage, the Berlin torch relay was a huge success and after World War Two it became firmly established as an essential and popular pre-Games ritual.
The first runner in the 1948 London Games relay took off his military uniform before carrying the flame to commemorate the sacred peace truce observed in the ancient Games. A boat ferried the flame across the channel to England.
In 1968, the relay retraced the steps of Christopher Columbus to the new world and the Mexico Games and the torch, but not the flame, has twice been carried into space by astronauts. Camels bore the flame across the Australian desert before the 2000 Sydney Games.
The final torchbearer has increasingly been a celebrated athlete since nine-times Olympic distance running champion Paavo Nurmi delighted a packed Finnish crowd when he lit the cauldron at the Helsinki Games. A statue of Nurmi, who was denied the opportunity to set an unmatched record of track and field gold medals when he was declared a professional, stands outside the stadium.
At the 1996 Atlanta Games Muhammad Ali, who as Cassius Clay won the light-heavweight boxing title in the 1960 Rome Olympics, lit the flame through sheer strength of will although his hands were visibly shaking with the effects of Parkinson’s syndrome, the cruel legacy of his professional career.
Four years later, Australian aboriginal Cathy Freeman apparently walked on water to ignite the cauldron at the Sydney Games. Unlike Nurmi and Ali, Freeman had yet to win an Olympic title, an omission she rectified in spectacular fashion in the 400 metres final.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic relay was given the theme “Journey of Harmony”. It proved anything but on its international travels.
In London, demonstrators protesting against Chinese policies in Tibet tried several times to put out the flame. Security officials extinguished the flame in Paris at least twice and carried it on a bus in the face of further violent protests. The U.S. leg in San Francisco was altered to avoid further trouble.
At the age of 90, Schilgen was a torchbearer again before the Atlanta Games. He died in Kronberg in 2005 aged 99, the same age as Diana Gould. Gould will be 100 when she carries the torch in her home suburb of Barnet in London in July.
Berlin Olympics 1936
Games of the XI Olympiad
Video: Summer and Winter Olympic Cauldron Lighting 1968 to 2010
Video: Los Angeles opening ceremony 1984 Olympics games


Olympic Anthem – “Bugler’s Dream” – composed by Leo Arnaud
John Williams – Olympic Fanfare and Theme The Original
John Williams composed the theme for the Olympiad, “Olympic Fanfare and Theme”. This piece won a Grammy for Williams and became one of the most well-known musical themes of the Olympic Games, along with Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream”.
John Towner Williams is an American composer, conductor, and pianist. In a career spanning almost six decades, he has composed some of the most recognizable film scores in the history of motion pictures, including the Star Wars saga, Jaws, Superman, the Indiana Jones films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hook, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, War Horse, Home Alone and the first three Harry Potter films.
Video: “Olympic Fanfare and Theme”


“Summon the Heroes” was conducted and written by John Williams for the July 19, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
Video: “Summon the Heroes”
2012 Olympic Torch Relay
The Olympic Flame will come within 10 miles of 95% of people in the UK, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. It will enable local communities to shine a light on the best their area has to offer – including celebrations of local culture, breathtaking landscapes and dynamic urban areas.
David Beckham lights the Olympic Flame as it arrives at RNAS Culdrose near Helston on May 18, 2012 in Cornwall, England. The Olympic Flame arrived in the UK after it was handed over at a ceremony yesterday in Athens. A British delegation including David Beckham, flew back with the flame from Greece where they attended a ceremony welcoming the flame, before it is taken on a 70-day relay involving 8,000 torchbearers covering 8,000 miles. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

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