OLYMPIC TORCH: Defining symbol of the Games

THOUSANDS of photographs of the Olympic Flame will be seen round the world over the coming weeks, particularly when it arrives in Eastbourne on Tuesday, making it one of the most iconic and recognisable images of all time.

However, it has it roots set in the mythology of ancient Greece, where the first Olympic games was held.

The Olympic Flame has become the defining symbol of the Games and commemorates the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus.

During the ancient Olympics, Greeks would light a fire and keep the flame burning on the altar of the goddess, Hera, while heralds were dispatched throughout Greece to announce that the games had begun.

There would then be a sacred truce observed by the different Greek factions for the duration of the contest.

However, it was not until 1928 in Amsterdam that the idea of an Olympic Flame was reintroduced to the modern games.

And it was not until the controversial 1936 Berlin games that the tradition of lighting the flame in Greece and then transporting it via relay to the host city, started.

Nowadays the flame is ignited several months before the games get underway, using the sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, before heading out on a short relay round Greece.

From there it is handed to organisers of the forthcoming games during a ceremony in the Panathenaiko stadium in Athens and then sets off on the often continent-spanning relay to spread the message of peace, unity and friendship.

The journey finishes when the last torch bearer lights the cauldron at the opening ceremony – where it stays burning until the closing ceremony at the end of the games. Follow the Olympic Torch relay on-line next Tuesday at www.eastbourneherald.co.uk with reports and pictures as it passes through Eastbourne. You can also send us your photos of the day to olympictorch@jpress.co.uk

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @Eastbournenews for all the latest torch news. If you are tweeting about the torch remember to hashtag it #EastbourneTorch