After the flame-lighting ceremony in Olympia and its relay across Greece, the flame arrived in Athens on 6 April. To mark the Centennial of the Games, a special celebration was organised in the Panathenaic Stadium. Representatives of the 17 cities that had hosted the Summer Games before Atlanta were present. Each of them received a safety lamp, whose flame was lit from a main torch. During the next 21 days, these flames were celebrated in each of the former host cities, while the main flame burned in Athens. These flames were extinguished when the main flame left Athens to fly to Los Angeles.
On 27 April, the flame arrived in Los Angeles. The relay on American soil began at the Memorial Coliseum, the Stadium that hosted the Los Angeles Games in 1932 and 1984. The first torchbearer was Olympian Rafer Johnson, the last torchbearer of the 1984 Games. The relay notably passed through St. Louis, host city of the Olympic Games in 1904.
On 19 July, the flame reached the city of Atlanta. In order to honour the origins of the modern Olympic Games, Evander Holyfield, originally from Atlanta, shared the torch with Greek athlete Voula Patoulidou for part of the leg in the Stadium during the Opening Ceremony. Swimmer Janet Evans took over the relay, doing a lap of the track before heading for a long ramp located at the top of the extreme north of the Stadium. She passed the torch to Muhammad Ali, who had the honour of lighting the cauldron.
Start date: 30 March 1996, Olympia (Greece)
End date: 19 July 1996, Olympic Stadium, Atlanta (United States)
First torchbearer: Konstantinos “Kostas” Koukodimos, Olympic participant in athletics (1992, 1996, 2000)
Last torchbearers: Muhammad Ali, Olympic participant under the name of Cassius Clay in boxing (1960), gold medallist in Rome 1960
Number of torchbearers: ~800 in Greece, 12,467 in the United States
Recruitment of torchbearers: To be able to carry the torch, torchbearers had to be aged 12 or over on 17 April 1996. The torchbearer categories included community heroes, Olympic athletes, Olympic Movement members and members of the Share the Spirit national and international selection programme run by Coca-Cola.
To be considered as a community hero, individuals could either nominate themselves or be proposed by others. As part of the application process, an essay of 100 words or fewer describing the qualities of the nominated person was required. The Organising Committee’s main criteria for defining a community hero included notable work as a volunteer, service as a community leader, role model or mentor, acts of generosity or kindness and extraordinary feats or accomplishments. Approximately 40,000 candidatures were received, from which 5,500 community heroes were chosen.
Distance: 2,141km in Greece, 26,875km across the U.S.
Countries visited: Greece, United States
Description: On the wooden handle is an engraved list of Summer Games from 1896 to 1996, in reference to the centenary of the Olympic Games. The torch was inspired by simple ancient torches of bound reeds and the lines of classical Greek architecture. Its 22 aluminium “reeds” were representative of the total number of modern Olympic Games editions. The centre grip is made of Georgia pecan wood and there are two wide gold bands, one with the names of all Olympic Games host cities, and the other with the emblem of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games and the Quilt of Leaves motif.
Colour: Silver, gold, brown
Composition: Aluminium, brass, pecan wood
Fuel: Propylene. The combustion duration is 20 minutes.
Designer / Manufacturer: Peter Mastrogiannis, Malcolm Grear Designers / Georgia Institute of Technology
To announce the holding of the Olympic Games, the flame was carried by relay along the real Pony Express route, which was recreated over 875km between Julesburg, Colorado, and St. Joseph, Missouri. Over 58 consecutive hours, riders travelling on horseback, just like the pioneers of the service, transported over 1,000 letters from the Organising Committee.
On board the Space Shuttle Columbia, an unlit torch was taken into space for the very first time.
The 6.4 metre-high cauldron formed the top of a metallic tower, which was over 35 metres high and linked to the Stadium by a 55-metre bridge. Originally, it was planned that the last torchbearer would cross the bridge and climb the tower to the cauldron to light it. However, in order to make the task simpler for Muhammad Ali and enhance visibility of this moment, the flame instead travelled via a rope from the inside of the Stadium to the cauldron.
The safety lamps measured 30.5cm and had a burning capacity of 20 hours. They were fed by liquid paraffin.
The wood that forms the central part of the torch was a donation from local farmers and symbolised the connection between heaven, Earth and the Olympic flame.