The Olympic Torch is a symbol of the Olympic Games. Commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, its origins lie in ancient Greece, when a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics. The fire was reintroduced at the Olympics in 1928, and it has been part of the modern Olympic Games ever since. The modern torch relay was introduced for the Berlin Games of 1936.
The Olympic Torch today is ignited several months before the opening celebration of the Olympic Games at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece. By tradition, the Olympic flame is delivered to the officials of the host city in a ceremony taking place in the Athenian Stadium for the start of the relay by the city authorities of Athens.
The torch is then transported to the host city of the upcoming Olympics by a torch relay. Though traditionally, the flame is carried on foot, other means of transportation have been used as well. The runners have included athletes and celebrities, but many previously “unknown” people have also carried it, often chosen for their personal merits and achievements. Even my brother had the privilege of carrying the Olympic Torch in 1996, the year that the Summer Olympic Games were in Atlanta.
The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final carrier is often kept secret until the last moment, and is usually a sports celebrity of the host country. The final bearer of the torch runs towards the cauldron, usually placed at the top of a grand staircase, and then uses the torch to start the flame in the stadium. It is generally considered a great honor to be asked to light the Olympic Flame. After being lit, the flame continues to burn throughout the celebration of the Olympics and is extinguished at the end of the closing ceremony of the Games.
The Olympic Torch Relay is a symbol of passing on something vital. Jesus passed on a vital pattern of teaching and living by making disciples. The Apostle Paul adopted Jesus’ method. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul wrote to one of his own disciples saying:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
We have a vivid illustration in Acts 18 of how the torch of faith gets passed on. Paul left Athens for Corinth in order to pass the light of Christ on to others. Like an Olympic torchbearer, he handed the gospel flame to other runners. However, in Acts 18, we see at least three other Olympic-like runners. Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos, each passed the torch of faith from life to life in unique ways. I think we can learn from this that we do not all have to be like Paul, or Billy Graham, or some famous evangelist or preacher. Each of us has unique gifts and a unique personality to pass the torch of faith on to others in a unique way.