London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay
The Olympic flame has been a strong symbol of the Games ever since the Ancient Olympics started thousands of years ago. Originally every Olympics was held in Greece and a tradition started of carrying the flame in a torch throughout the country for the people to see.
A similar idea was introduced in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, when a torch was lit in Greece and then transported to Germany to be used to light the cauldron. Today, the torch still starts in Greece and makes its way around the country before being transported to the host country, where it is eventually ends up at the Opening Ceremony. All this way it is passed from one person to another in one long massive relay.
For London 2012 the torch started its travels in Greece on May 10th, before arriving in the UK on May 17th, for its 70-day journey around the country.
The Torch Design
The torch was designed by east London designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby and was built to allow the flames to burn out through the 8,000 tiny holes for onlookers to see. These holes also represented the 8,000 people who carried the torch and added the functional purpose of making the torch light enough for children to carry.
Indeed, this matching of style, symbolism and practicality was something at the forefront of the designers' minds: "We felt it should be something that's really beautiful and simple, but it had to feel like a functional object, a piece of sporting equipment like a baton".
There wasn't just a single torch, but 8,000 of them all played their part in the huge relay across Britain.
The torch started its journey on May 10th 2012 at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia in Greece. Here, at the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, the torch was lit using the sun's rays. Over the next week, it then travelled 3,000km throughout Greece, with the Olympic Flame passing through 34 cities and being carried by 500 people.
After making its way around Greece, the torch was transported to the UK, where, on May 19th, it began a mammoth 8,000 mile journey over 70 days, visiting every corner of Britain. Read about the first few days of its journey in Britain here.
Organisers spent a long time making sure that the Relay route passed close by as much of the country as possible, and local people rewarded this planning by lining the streets to catch a glimpse. Indeed, the route was planned so that the Flame came within ten miles of 95 percent of people in the UK.
The Torch ended its long journey at the Olympic Stadium, just in time for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony on July 27th. You can see a street-by-street map of the relay route through Britain here.
To complete such a massive relay, a lot of people were needed. 8,000 to be precise. In Britain they were made up of 7,300 nominated members of the public and 700 athletes and celebrities. Each Torchbearer carried the flame for about 300m and about 110 people took part each day.
The members of public were chosen through a series of different schemes that aimed to find the most worthy candidates. The Olympic Organising Committee (LOCOG), as well as the three main partners of the Relay all ran campaigns where members of the public nominated others that they thought are inspirational. Whether they went beyond their call of duty in their school or community, or they had their own ‘personal best' story, the Relay was their chance to be rewarded. They ranged from 11-year-old Dominic MacGowan, to 100-year-old Diana Gould. You can see every single one of the British Torchbearers here.
However, before the torch even reached Britain, it went through 500 people in Greece. The honour of being the very first Torchbearer went to Spyros Gianniotis- Greece's British-born 10km swimming world champion.