One of the most exciting parts of the opening ceremonies of any Olympic Games is the lighting of the cauldron with the Olympic flame. Today, Wonderopolis takes a trip back to ancient Greece to learn more about the origins of the modern Olympic flame.

The Olympic flame is one of the most important symbols of the Olympic Games. It symbolizes the fire Prometheus stole from the ancient Greek god Zeus. In ancient Greece, the organizers of the early Olympic Games kept a flame burning throughout the course of the games.

The Olympic flame has not always been a part of the Olympic Games, though. Fire as a symbol in the form of the Olympic flame was first used in the modern era at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.

An even more modern tradition is the Olympic torch relay. Started in 1936 before the Summer Olympics in Berlin, the modern torch relay carries the Olympic flame from Greece to various sites before arriving at the site of the current Olympic Games to light the cauldron during the opening ceremonies.

Although some legends hold that the Olympic flame has been kept burning ever since the first Olympic Games, in truth it is relit several months before each new Olympic Games. The Olympic torch relay begins at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece.

As a symbol of the life and competitive spirit of the Olympic Games, though, one could say truthfully that the flame has never gone out. People all around the world wait anxiously for the coming of each new Olympic Games.

During the torch relay, the Olympic flame is usually carried by runners. However, over time, it has also been transported in some other interesting ways. In 1948, the Olympic flame crossed the English Channel on a boat. In 1952, it flew in an airplane to Helsinki, Finland.

Perhaps the most interesting method of transportation was used in 1976. The Olympic flame was converted to a radio signal that was sent from Athens via satellite to Canada, where it then triggered a laser beam that was used to relight the flame.

The Olympic flame has also traveled by canoe, camel and Concorde. To prove that the spirit of the Olympics is truly unquenchable, the Olympic flame also was transported underwater by divers at the Great Barrier Reef in 2000.

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    • Thanks for sharing with us, Kurt. It’s WONDERful to learn about all the places the Olympic torch has traveled!! Thank you for WONDERing with us today- you rock! :)

  1. I never saw the Olympic torch before. Hopefully I will see it tonight on TV. I wonder if the torch is heavy to carry. :-)

    • Thanks for telling us about your favorite Olympic event, Julie! We are super excited to watch the games this year, too! Have a WONDERful day!! :)

  2. :)I love Wonderopolis, and I love reading it everyday with my daughter, Sharky! We are learning a lot about how to research other ideas based on what we discuss in each day’s topic. I plan on using it daily with my third grade class next year…thanks for an awesome site that inspires curiosity!

    • Wow, Chris, thanks to you and Sharky for WONDERing with us. We love that you two are exploring your own Wonders with research and curiosity. We can’t wait for your third grade class to join us next year for more WONDERing together! :)

  3. I loved today’s story because it was about the Olympic flame. I learned that the flame doesn’t really go out because they relight it every month. I also searched Prometheus and found out that he is a big statue in New York City! I love the Olympics and was glad today’s wonder was about it.
    I think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about Barack Obama because he is the president and presidents are important people. :)

    • We love that you continued to research the Olympic flame on your own, Sharky! Keep up the great work while you WONDER! :)

    • Thanks for guessing the Wonder today, Emily! We can’t wait to enjoy the Olympic events, either. Keep WONDERING and have a GREAT day! :)

    • We love great performances, Emily, especially at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics! We hope you have a WONDERful day filled with music! :)

  4. I was very close to guess today’s wonder. :) I loved today’s wonder! :D I don’t know what tomorrow’s wonder will be about.

    Sorry for such the late comment, you have probably been wondering if I was too busy today. ;)

    TJ

    • Hi there TJ, we love that you having been WONDERing what the next day’s Wonder will be. We are always excited to find out, too! Thanks for your comment! :)

  5. I have never seen the London Olympics, until now, half of now. I saw the running, swimming,and kicking events. And now I’m seeing the celebration of the 2012 Olympics. :)

    • We thought the opening ceremonies of the Olympics were WONDERful, Carlos! We are so glad you are taking part in watching all the great events this year! We hope you keep WONDERing about the Olympic games! :)

  6. Why was this so boring? I’m 14 years old and I almost find anything cool but not things like this. Please make the next one better, I disliked this video.

    • We’re super sorry you didn’t care for today’s Wonder, Robert! We appreciate your comment and respect your opinion. We hope you will explore Wonderopolis to find another AWESOME Wonder that is more to your liking. :)

    • We’re glad you learned something new, Adam– isn’t the Olympic flame cool?! :)

      We are glad you are WONDERing with us today! :)

    • Great Wonder, Zach T! We bet you can put your super WONDERing skills to use and do some research of your own to find out! :)

  7. Hi that was great. Just wondering is there any other suggestions of websites that relate to this. I am doing a school project on it because it is so interesting.

    • Isn’t it amazing to learn about the origin of the Olympics and how many athletes participate, Lauren? We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us! :)

  8. Wow it’s really cool how the Olympic Flame doesn’t go out. I think wonderopolis is really cool because people can know more than what they already knew. I’ve learned a lot about different things, you guys are AWESOME just like WONDEROPOLIS. :)

  9. Dear Wonderopolis,

    That’s is longer than the first post you wrote. How long did it take to write that? When did you write that Wonderopolis?

    Your new blogging friend,
    Jack

    • Hi, Jack! Each Wonder is different, and we enjoy what we do so the time flies. What is your favorite subject? When you research questions about something that interests you, how long does it take? We think you could write your own Wonder! If you do, please share it with us! Thanks, Wonder Friend! :-)

  10. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I learned some crazy ways to travel the Olympic torch. My favorite ways were the radio satellite and traveling it under water. That was so crazy. How does it always stay lit?

    Your friend,
    Kyle

    • WONDERful, Kyle! It sounds like you learned a lot from this Wonder. Are you getting excited about the Winter Olympics? We know we are! It really is a Wonder how the torch continues to stay lit. Thanks for WONDERing with us! :-)

    • Hi, Shyann! We are glad that you are enjoying these Wonders! We think that is a WONDERful question. We assume that they don’t want to waste fuel in between event years. ;-) Thanks for WONDERing with us today!

  11. It would be fun to see the torch be lit, and where would it be lit, first. And did the people light it again when it was under water?

  12. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I learned a lot from that article. I thought it traveled in space, too? Did you know about that? It even was handed off to each other in space. Isn’t that cool? Please comment back.

    Your Friend,
    Gabrielle

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Does the Olympic flame ever go out?
  • How did the Olympic flame tradition start?
  • What does the Olympic flame symbolize?

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