The Olympic Flame

As one of the most iconic Olympic symbols, the Olympic Flame, was conceived as a symbol unifying the Ancient and Modern Games. In Ancient Greece, a fire was considered to be a divine element and the Greeks maintained a perpetual fire in front of their temples. At the sanctuary of Olympia, where the Ancient Olympic Games took place, the flame was lit using the rays of the sun, to ensure its purity and burned permanently. Today, the flame symbolized the Olympic spirit and is guaranteed pure by the way it is lit using the sun’s rays. The Olympic Flame is carried by relay from Olympia, Greece all the way to its final destination.







The Olympic Torch

Lake Placid Olympic Museum Torch WallFor each edition of the Olympic Games, a new model of the torch is designed to very high technical and aesthetic standards. In the early days of the Olympic Games, the torch models were similar, but over time their designs became diverse, showing the uniqueness of each host country. During the torch relay, the flame must never go out and the torch needs to stand up to difficult weather conditions to ensure that the flame burns reliably. Experiments are necessary to determine the best shape for the torch and the most suitable method to fuel the Olympic flame. Today, a gas cartridge in the body of the torch is the most popular solution chosen.


The first torch relay was organized for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. This was the first Olympic Games in which a unique torch was designed for an Olympic Games.

1980 Winter Olympic Torch

1980 Winter Olympic Torch

The 1980 Winter Olympic Games torch blended modern technology with the traditional Grecian design with its elongated handle and flared bowl from which the flame emanates. To counter the runners’ perspiring hands, leather covers the handle of the torch, as did many early Greek torches.

Bethlehem Steel played a vital role in designing the 140 torches used in the relay run from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia to Lake Placid, New York prior to the start of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. The torches were designed to burn in the wind, rain, snow, and temperature to 40 degrees below zero.



Cauldron Lighting 1980 Winter Olympic Games


On February 13th the 1980 Winter Olympic Games were opened by Vice President Walter Mondale. The torch relay finished with the lighting of the Olympic Flame. This was done by Dr. Charles Morgan Kerr. During the opening ceremonies the Olympic Oath was given by Eric Heiden (speed skating) and the Officials’ Oath was given by Terry McDermott (speed skating).




1980 Winter Olympic Torch Relay


The Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee chose 26 men and 26 women from each state along with Puerto Rico and Washington, DC to relay the flame. They were chosen to act as “goodwill ambassadors” for the Games and exemplified the ancient Greek ideal of the “whole person.” Each torchbearer carried the torch multiple times on the 1,600km national leg of the relay route.