Olympic Relay Torch - Athens 2004
Olympic Relay Torch - Athens 2004
"We shall not have peace until the prejudices which now separate the different races shall have been outlived. To attain this end, what better means than to bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials of muscular strength and agility?" ~ Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games
This specimen is a pair of olive wood and aluminum fragments from an Olympic Relay Torch used in advance of the 2004 games in Athens. Germany introduced the modern concept of the Olympic Torch relay during the 1936 Games in Berlin. Since then, the relay has been a feature of every Summer Games.
The 2004 relay covered 78,000 km beginning in Olympia, Greece, and ending after an around-the-world trip. Gold medallist Nikolaos Kaklamanakis was the final runner, who brought the flame to light the Olympic Cauldron at the opening ceremonies on August 13, 2004.
A Piece of the Relay
On May 25, 2004, the Olympic Flame for the 2004 Athens Games was lit in Olympia. This was the 108th anniversary of the modern revival of the games in 1896.
This flame was carried across the globe by over 10,000 torchbearers to each city that had previously hosted the games. Finally, on August 13, after traveling over 48,400 miles, the final runner, Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, lit the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Games.
This specimen is a pair of wood and metal sections of one of the torches crafted for the 2004 Olympic Relay. These gas-powered torches were made with olive wood and aluminum to represent the two-toned sides of an olive leaf, a symbol of peace and the ancient Athenian city-state.
In 2004, this was one of several torches which carried the flame around the world. Each specimen comes housed in an acrylic jar that is encased within a glass-topped riker display box. The box measures 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also included, which serves as the certificate of authenticity.
📸 The lighting of the olympic cauldron in 2004
MORE ABOUT THE OLYMPIC GAMES
📸 Opening Ceremonies at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004
The Origin of the Olympics
The modern Olympics are a revival of the ancient Greek games where athletes from across the nation’s city-states competed against each other in feats of strength, speed, and agility.
During these games, a truce was honored across Greece, putting an end to any feud or battle for the sake of peace. Hundreds of years later in the 19th century, various sporting organizations attempted to mount extensions of these ancient games, but it was nobleman Pierre de Coubertin who was successful in reviving the games as a global competition and a touchstone of modern sports.
📸 Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games
Coubertin, inspired by the idea of the Olympic Truce, hoped to use the 3,000-year-old concept of the Greek Olympiad as a practical, hands-on extension to the peace education movement of his day. Coubertin’s goal was nothing less than peace among all nations, which he hoped to bring about through a program of sport emphasizing the unique value of each human body.
In 1894, he founded the International Olympic Committee, with the first games held two years later in Athens, Greece. Spyridon Louis, a Greek shepherd, became a national hero in his home country after winning the marathon race in just under three hours.
📸 American Athlete Jesse Owens winning the Gold Medal at the 1936 Olympic Games
Jesse Owens and the First Relay
Much of the iconography of the Olympics comes from an unexpected source: the 1936 games held in Nazi Germany. Despite a considerable boycott campaign, Avery Brundage (President of the International Olympic Committee) was courted by the Nazi Regime, who wished to exploit the games as a propaganda tool. As part of this, the Nazis devised the Olympic torch relay to ferry the Olympic flame from Olympia to Berlin across nearly 2,000 miles.
For all the Nazi’s propagandizing, however, it was the black American Jesse Owens who won the day, bringing home four gold medals in track and field events.
During the Berlin Games, Owens took home four gold medals: the 100m dash with a 10.3 second time, the 200 m with 20.7 seconds, the long jump with 8.06 m, and finally the 4x100 m relay with 39.8 seconds. It stands today as one of the greatest achievements of athleticism in the history of the Olympics. At the beginning of the 1984 Olympic Relay, Owens’ granddaughter Gina Hemphill ran the torch’s first kilometer, a link from the Olympics of today to Owens’ fantastic achievement.
The 2004 Torch
Just as the games have grown and changed over the years, so has the relay. In 2004, the torch was carried by runners on a 78,000 km (48,400 mi) journey between all cities that had hosted the games since 1896. Over 10,000 torchbearers traveled with the flame, and a specially-equipped Boeing 747 was used to carry the burning flame overseas.
On August 13, 2004, the flame arrived in Athens to kick off the 2004 Olympic Games, which marked the first time Greece hosted the games since 1896.
While the flame was consistent throughout the trip, many torches were crafted to carry it. The shape of the torches used was designed to evoke the image of an olive leaf, a symbol of peace and the ancient Athenian city-state.
Front of the Specimen Card
Back of the Specimen Card
De Coubertin, Pierre. Olympism. Comité Internationnal Olympique, 2000.
Guttmann, Allen. The Olympics, a History of the Modern Games. Urbana [Ill: University of Illinois Press, 1992. Print.
MacAloon, John J. This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympic Games. Routledge, 2013.