Olympic Flame in Lausanne

The Olympic flame made its first visit to Lausanne in 1948. It had arrived on Swiss soil from Italy and was greeted in Lausanne by Swiss Olympic Committee President Marcel Henniger.

Runners paid a silent tribute at the grave of Pierre de Coubertin, whose widow, Marie, also witnessed the relay.

The Olympic flame is one of the most powerful symbols of the Olympic Games. The idea for the Olympic flame was derived from Ancient Greece, where a sacred fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympic Games on the altar of the sanctuary of Hestia. Sacred fires were present at many ancient Greek sanctuaries, including those at Olympia. Every four years, when Zeus was honoured at the Olympic Games, additional fires were lit at his temple and that of his wife, Hera. The modern Olympic flame is ignited at the site in Olympia where the temple of Hera used to stand to maintain the link with ancient tradition, using the ancient method, namely a parabolic mirror which concentrates the sun’s rays.

The flame tradition was reintroduced during the Olympic Summer Games Amsterdam 1928 with the lightening of a symbolic fire (a flame not lit in Olympia), under the presidency of Henri de Baillet-Latour (1925-1942). The flame has been part of the Summer Olympics ever since. The first Olympic relay was created for the Games in Berlin in 1936.

For the Winter Games, it was not until 1952 in Oslo that the first relay was held. Since then, the tradition has been continued for each edition of the Games. Of all the Games featuring a torch relay, only the first three relays organised for the Winter Games did not begin in Olympia: 1952, 1956 and 1960 as such it was symbolic fires.

The numerous festivities organised along the relay route herald the start of the Games and allow the general public to share in the Olympic spirit.

IOC in Lausanne


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