Next week you need to know about . . . the Olympic relay

Sat, May 5, 2012, 01:00

Although the often stated ideals of the Olympic Games might be eroding from commercialisation, professionalism and drug-taking, no symbol in sport is quite as potent as the lighting of the Olympic flame and its relay to the host city.

Next Thursday the torch will be lit at the Temple of Hera, in Olympia, Greece, home of the ancient games; the sun’s rays will be used to light it in an hour-long ceremony. From there it will go on an eight-day journey around Greece before being handed to a representative of the London games. British Airways will then fly it to Cornwall.

Taking a burning flame aboard an aircraft is allowable under a little-known aviation-law loophole. Symbolic flames are acceptable carry-on luggage, apparently.

Then the famous relay begins. (It was invented ahead of the 1936 Olympics, in Berlin, so at least that particularly regrettable propaganda event left us with something worthwhile.) The flame will travel more than 12,000km across the UK – and visit Dublin on June 6th – before it enters the Olympic stadium on July 27th. Then it will used to light the Olympic cauldron, which will burn for the duration of the games.

Davin O’Dwyer