The Timeline: The Olympic Torch

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The Independent Online

776 BC: Let there be light

A sacred flame used to burn at the site of the Ancient Olympics in Olympia. The flame is said to have commemorated the myth of Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus and the Greek gods and gave it back to mankind. The modern Olympic movement recognises its Ancient Heritage by lighting the Olympic torch at this site using only a mirror and the power of the sun.

1928: Out of the darkness

It took until the ninth modern Olympics, in Amsterdam, 1928, for the Olympic flame to reappear. The first modern flame burned in the Olympic cauldron on the top of Marathon Tower, designed by the celebrated Dutch architect Jan Wils.

1936: The torch relay with a dark past

Although most renowned for the success of African-American athlete Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals, the Berlin Olympics also saw the introduction of the Olympic Torch relay as we know it today. Over the course of 12 days, 3,331 athletes carried the flame using a specially constructed torch containing two fuses. German filmmaker and propagandist Leni Riefenstahl popularised the "Torch Run" in her 1938 documentary film Olympia.

2008: There is a light that never goes out

Controversy dominated the headlines during the 2008 torch relay ahead of the Beijing games. In London, 37 protesters, critical of China's poor human rights record and occupation of Tibet, were arrested during the parade. Following this, in Paris demonstrations against the Beijing Olympics caused officials to purposefully extinguish the flame a number of times and continue the route by bus in order to avoid protesters.

2011: London calling

This week sees the launch of nominations to be one of the 8,000 torch-bearers carrying the Olympic flame on its 53-day journey from Land's End, as it tours the country before arriving in London on 21 July. London 2012 is encouraging the public to nominate "inspirational" people to carry the torch, which will pass within one hourof 95 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom.

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