The Science of the Olympic Flame; Ancient Style Meets Modern Technology

For all the recent scandal and the trauma of past Games, the Olympics remain a pageant of grandeur and glory, and there is no greater symbol of its ideals than the Olympic Flame. The video above, from the Ontario Science Centre, explains the evolving technology that keeps the flame burning from its lighting to the closing ceremonies. It’s a pretty cool story, set to a bombastic soundtrack worthy of its subject and carried by an animated runner who just peeled himself off of an ancient Athenian vase.

Introduced in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, the flame revives a symbol from antiquity, commemorating Prometheus’s audacity and reminding warring city states to put aside hostilities for as long as it burned. In the modern Olympics, between the lighting and the opening ceremonies, the flame, in its stylized torch, makes a pilgrimage to the host city via relay, a practice that began with the 1936 games in Berlin. This year’s relay started on May 19th in Land’s End in Cornwall and ends this Friday, the 27th at the opening ceremony in London. The torch will have traveled through 1,000 places in the UK, covered a total of 8,000 miles (and passing through 8,000 hands), moving over land, air, and water, without once having to be relit.

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