The Olympic fire 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, perform a celebration at the Temple of Hera. The first torch of the Olympic Torch Relay is kindled by the light of the Sun, its rays concentrated by a parabolic mirror.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the Olympic anthem was sung first, followed by the national anthem of the country hosting the Olympics and the national anthem of Greece, along with the hoisting of the flags.
The Olympic torch is a symbol, a flame ignited several months before the Summer Olympics, and carried all the way from Greece to the Olympic host city. The torch relay ends with the opening ceremony of the Games, concluding with the lighting of the grand Olympic Flame in the host stadium.
And it all began with the defying of a god. In Greek mythology, Prometheus and Epimetheus were tasked with the creation of man. Prometheus shaped man from the mud, and Athena breathed life into the inanimate figure.
Prometheus loved his creations and felt sorry for them. Since Epimetheus had already given out all of the wings, fur, claws, and other natural gifts to the animals, leaving humans naked and vulnerable, Prometheus gifted them with fire and allowed them to stand upright, as the gods did. In fact, he loved a man more than he did his fellow Olympians, who had banished his family to the abyss of torment and suffering, Tartarus.
When Zeus eventually took fire away from man, Prometheus stole it back, lighting a torch from the sun and re-gifting mankind with the fire that allowed them to develop their science and culture, both of which are associated with Prometheus.
Zeus was outraged when he discovered this, and punished Prometheus by having him chained to a pillar with unbreakable chains of adamant, and tortured by a monstrous eagle each day. Fortunately, after many years, the great hero, Hercules, killed the eagle, rescuing Prometheus from his torment.
The ancient Greeks, believing that fire was given to mankind by Prometheus, considered it sacred, and used mirrors to focus the sun’s light, igniting fires that burned in perpetuity in front of Greek temples. During the ancient Games, which were held to honour Zeus, more fires were lit at his temple, and that of his divine wife, Hera. Today, the Olympic flame symbolizes the connection between the ancient Olympic games and our contemporary ones.
The first Olympics held under the International Olympics Committee was hosted in 1896, in the Panathenaic stadium in Athens, Greece, bringing together 14 nations and 241 athletes. I