Lighting Up the World
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. - Pierre de Coubertin
While the modern Summer Olympics have been geographically limited to 14 countries β primarily concentrated in Europe, North America, East Asia and Australia β the power of the games have extended far beyond. One reason for this surrounds the tradition of the torch relay.
With its origins in ancient Greece, the Olympic flame symbolizes fire stolen from Zeus, the god of sky and thunder. Initially lit with a parabolic mirror, the flame continuously burns until it is extinguished at the closing ceremony. Since the first torch relay in 1936, over 100,000 people have participated in the ceremony. Traveling by boat, plane, satellite, horseback and foot, the flame has ventured to far reaches of the world, sparking dialogue about the athletic spectacle.
This graphic traces the torch relay over the past 76 years, from the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin to the 2012 Games in London. Always originating in Olympia, Greece, the flame finds its own path to the host city. The paths are color-coded as such: the 30s, 40s, and 50s are marked in red tones, the 60s and 70s in green, the 80s and 90s in yellow and the 00s and 10s in blue. Each corresponding flame represents the duration of the relay in days, from just 5 for the 1976 Games in Montreal to 159 for the 2008 Games in Beijing.