Olympic Torch Timeline & Fun Facts

In honor of the famous symbol that lights the Olympic Cauldron at all of the games, we've put together a slide show highlighting all of the torches in Olympic history.

Though it did not appear at Olympic games until 1936, the torch has become a powerful icon for modern day games. It's also undergone many a transformation as it is designed for each Olympics to represent the host country or a classic ideal.


  • 1936, Berlin, Germany

    The Olympic torch made it's debut during the 1936 Olympics hosted by Germany - the first Olympic games to ever be televised.

  • 1948, London, England

    The Olympic games return to London in 2012, where they were hosted in 1948. The last time the country played host was after a 12-year hiatus due to World War II, and because of this, the games became known as the Austerity Games.

  • 1952, Helinski, Finland

    Though the city was given the 1940 Olympics, they were cancelled due to World War II and Helinski did not play host until 12 years later. The '52 Olympics are most famous for being the games at which the most world records were broken, before the 2008 games in Beijing. They also marked the first time a team from the Soviet Union participated in the Olympics.

  • 1956, Melbourne, Australia

    Surprisingly, the '56 Olympics were the first in history to be held in the Southern Hemisphere and outside of Europe and North America. It's also the second time events for the same Olympics were held in two different countries -- due to quarantine regulations, equestrian events were held 5 months earlier in Stockholm, Sweden.

  • 1960, Rome, Italy

    At the 1960s Olympics in Italy, Ethipoian Abebe Bikila won the marathon bare-footed. She became the first black African Olympic champion.

  • 1964, Tokyo, Japan

    The 1964 games were the first in Olympic history to be held in Asia and were the first ever internationally televised.

  • 1968, Mexico City, Mexico

    The first games hosted by both a Spanish-speaking nation and a developing country, the 1968 Olympics were the third in history held during autumn.

  • 1972, Munich, West Germany

    Though they were overshadowed by a terrorist attack in which 12 innocents were killed, the '72 Olympics were the second to be held in Germany. Aware of the opportunity to show the country as a new, democratic and optimisitic one, Germany's motto was "The Happy Games".

  • 1976, Montreal, Canada

    The first Olympic games ever hosted by Canada, the Olympic Flame of the '76 games was "electronically" transmitted from Athens to Ottawa via a heat signature from the actual flame. From Ottawa, the flame was carried to Montreal, where a few days after the opening ceremony, it was put out by heavy rains. An official relit the flame with a cigarette lighter, but organizers for the game quickly doused it and relit it again using the official flame.

  • 1980, Moscow, Russia

    The 1980 Olympics were marred by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that cause many countries, including the United States, to boycott the games. This prompted the Soviet's boycott in the following summer games. Despite the boycotts, there were a record 203 events at the '80 Olympics and a number of World Records made.

  • 1984, Los Angeles, United States

    The 1984 Olympics are often considered the most financially successful of the modern games. The Torch Relay of '84 involved a continuous run across the country from New York to Los Angeles, and involved 3,616 runners!

  • 1988, Seoul, South Korea

    The 1988 Olympics are most notably known as the last time two of the world's "dominating" sport powers - East Germany and the USSR - would participate. By 1992, both no longer existed.

  • 1992, Barcelona, Spain

    At the opening ceremony for the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, the Olympic cauldron was lit by archer Antonio Rebollo, who fired an arrow lit by the last torch runner into it. The '92 games also marked the return of South Africa to the competitions since 1960.

  • 1996, Atlanta, United States

    Often critizied for being over-commercialized, the Olympics in Atlanta took over 6 years of preparation and cost over $1.8 billion. Despite the big price tag, the games actually were profitable and left a lasting impact on the city's economy. Most notably, Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony of the games.

  • 2000, Sydney, Australia

    The Millenium Games are reported to have cost over $6 billion dollars. A record 199 countries took part in the games. The opening ceremony and torch lighting for the games celebrated 100 years of women's participation in the games.

  • 2004, Athens, Greece

    The Olympic games were welcomed home after more than 100 years. A new medal was also introduced to reflect the long-standing mistake of using a Roman Colosseum rather than a Greek stadium. For the first time, the Olympic Flame travelled around the world in a relay to former Olympic host cities and other large cities before returning to Olympia.

  • 2008, Beijing, China

    The 2008 Olympics in China saw many records broken - including 43 world records and 132 Olympic ones. Inspired by traditional scrolls, the Olympic torch remained lit in 40mph winds, minus 40 degree temperatures and rain of up to 2in/hr. It visited cities on the Silk Road, symbolic of the ancient trade routes from China to the rest of the world.

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