There are more pictures of the Olympic torch in the newspapers than there are of Kate Middleton at the minute – and that’s saying something! This year 8,000 Torchbearers will be given an opportunity to take centre stage, and each has their own unique story of personal achievement â except Will.i.Am, who apart from not not actually being British, couldn’t actually carry it without Tweeting about how ‘Dope’ something was. But still, apart from that one notable exception (Jedward also), the Olympic torch relay is quite an event. Here are a few things that you might not have known about it..
The History of the Torch Relay
Well, this is a little embarrassing. Although the idea of an Olympic flame dates back to ancient Greece, the concept of a torch relay is much more recentâand much more Nazi. The German sports administrator Carl Diem created the tradition of the Olympic torch relay, which was staged by the Nazi regime for the Berlin games in 1936. The event was later documented in Leni Riefenstahlâs film Olympia, an innovative but controversial feature length documentary that was in part designed to add myth and mystic to Hitlerâs regime.
Selling on the Torch
They were intended to be keepsakes of that glorious moment when you held the Olympic flame, something that you can get out of the attic and ignite to impress friends at a crap party perhaps. However, sometimes the owners of past Olympic torches choose to pass them on to high bidders on Ebay. One seller even managed to attract bids of more than Â£150,000, although they did reportedly received âhundreds of rude and hateful messagesâ? from people who were annoyed about the insulting act of selling an inanimate and effectively useless object.
The winning bidder is also yet to come forward.
Because of its origins with the Nazi party, the Olympic flame hasnât been without its critics. In 1956, at the Melbourne games, a local veterinary student conceived perhaps the most subversive form of protest imaginable. He carried a fake torch through the streets, which consisted of a pair of flaming underpants in a plum pudding can, attached to a chair leg. He handed over his rudimentary torch to the Mayor of Sydney before escaping undetected as hero and a champion.
There were also protests at the 1948 games in London, where there were complications in transporting the torch from Olympia, due to civil unrest in Greece. The rebel leader Markos Vafiadis urged his followers to disrupt the torch relay. The torch was then smuggled quickly into Italy.
More recently, back in 2008, somebody protesting Chinaâs human rights attempted to grab the torch from former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq.
The Lighting of the Olympic Fag
When I called the Olympic torch âeffectively uselessâ?, I was wrong it seems, as this hipster in Vancouver recently proved. In Canada, blatant misuse of a sporting artefact is considered a felony and one that receives immediate justice. In this case, justice comes in the form of a man in cycle helmet.