On Exhibit: Olympic Torches


While the first modern Olympic Games was at Athens 1896, the first appearance of the Olympic Flame was not for another 30 years. At both the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games and the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games, an Olympic Flame was lit.

The 1936 Berlin Games took this to another level, by lighting an Olympic Torch in Olympia, Greece, and then having a Torch Relay take the flame to Germany. As remains the case today, the torch is first lit with the help of a parabolic mirror reflecting the sun’s rays, thereby guaranteeing the purity of the flame.

Today, the Olympic Torch Relay and Paralympic Torch Relay are events themselves, with thousands of people honored to carry the Flame as it makes its way from Olympia to each host city. The torches often are designed to accommodate features representing their host city.

Many of these torches will be on exhibit at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Games, including torches from the Atlanta 1996 Games, Sydney 2000 Games, Sochi 2014 Games and PyeongChang 2018 Games.


40 years later, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Digital Museum looks back at key events and moments from Lake Placid 1980, where the U.S. Men's Ice Hockey Team pulled off the Miracle on Ice and speed skater Eric Heiden won an unprecedented five gold medals.
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