Olympic Torch in Need of a Light
The surprising history of the torch relay took a new turn. It involved a cigarette lighter.
And so the relay will go on, with the torch ending up in the host town of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games, which begin on February 7.
But the torch relay itself is not an ancient or original Olympic tradition. Although nude torch races were run on other occasions—vase paintings from the sixth century B.C. show unclad athletes handing off torches—the modern-day relay was invented by Carl Diem, head of Berlin's 1936 games.
Diem was inspired by a flaming cauldron that made its debut at the 1928 Dutch Olympic stadium, and by a commemorative medal from those games that showed two athletes holding a torch. "A light bulb went on in his head," says Robert Barney, founding director of the