Olympic Games-2024: Dimensions, history, route… What you need to know about the Olympic flame

Almost 100 days before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the lighting of the flame for the Games began at 10:30 a.m. this Tuesday, April 16 in the sanctuary of Olympia, Greece. In front of the 2,600-year-old ruins of the temple of Hera, the ceremony inspired by Antiquity began, before a vast journey which will take the torch to Paris on July 26.

The Olympic flame, also called the Olympic torch, was designed by French designer Mathieu Lehanneur, in order to receive the fire of the Olympic and then Paralympic Games. With its modern diamond-shaped design, it measures 70 centimeters high, with a diameter of 3.5 centimeters at the extremes and 10 centimeters in the center. Made from recycled steel, it weighs only 1.5 kilos.

The origins of the ceremony

Like every two years (alternation of the Summer Games and the Winter Games), the ceremony takes place near the stadium where the young athletes of Antiquity competed in their first Games in the 8th century BC. The entire sanctuary of Olympia, ravaged throughout history by earthquakes and floods, was dedicated to Zeus and the Games aimed to pay homage to him. At the site, a now-vanished gold and ivory statue of the “god of gods” was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The lighting of this flame is highly symbolic: in ancient Greece, fire was a sacred element and hearths were kept in front of the temples of the main gods and goddesses. A flame also burned continually on the altar of the sanctuary of Hestia, goddess of sacred fire and the hearth, during the ancient Olympic Games. This Tuesday, the torch is lit in front of the ruins of the temple of Hera: playing a high priestess, an actress collects the sun’s rays in a container in order to light the Olympic flame.

The journey of the flame

Transported in the form of relays for eleven days, the journey of the flame from Olympia to the host city of the Olympic Games is one of the most symbolic events associated with the Games, the torchbearers bringing a message of peace. During this period, 600 people will pass the flame around and take it around Greece. The torch will travel 5,000 km across seven Greek islands, ten archaeological sites and the Acropolis Rock where it will spend a night next to the Parthenon.

The Olympic flame will finally reach the port of Piraeus, south of Athens, where it will board the three-masted Belem on April 26 bound for Marseille, in the south-east of France. From May 8, the symbol of the Olympic Games will cross all of France, then on the night of July 14 to 15, the flame will remain at the Paris City Hall. The flame will then leave, passing through the Antilles and French Polynesia, to return to Paris on the day of the opening ceremony, July 26.

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