Reading – The Olympic Torch Relay


The Vancouver Winter Olympics don’t begin until Feb. 12, 2010, but you can already feel the excitement building. The Olympic torch is making its way around the country right now! The torch was officially lit on Oct. 22, 2009 in Olympia, Greece (the birthplace of the ancient Olympics) and was carried through Greece for a week before it landed in Canada on Oct. 30, 2009.

Canada’s torch relay is the longest one ever held in a single country. By the time the relay is finished, the torch will have travelled 45,000 km over 106 days, and it will have been carried by 12,000 torchbearers [people carrying the torch] through over 1000 towns and cities in all 13 provinces and territories. Each torchbearer will carry the torch for approximately 300-400 metres. [A relay is when something is passed from one person to another (think of the relay events in running or swimming).]

The torch will mostly be carried by runners on foot, but it will also be transported by canoe, rowboat, skateboard, logging truck, fishing boat, sea plane, mountain bike, bicycle, surf board, dog sled, chuck wagon, horse and buggy, and many more forms of transportation!

Seeing the torch being carried through your hometown is an incredibly exciting moment for Canadians! We are so proud to host the Olympic Games, but most Canadians will only be able to watch the Olympics on TV. Seeing the torch so close is our connection to the Olympics! As you can see from the photo above, I got to see the Olympic Torch when it passed through my town! It was so much fun.

The relay started on October 30 in Victoria, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. The torch has already travelled to Alert, which is the northernmost inhabited place in the country (and the world!), and only 800 km from the North Pole. It has also been to Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the easternmost point in North America. Soon it will arrive at Point Pelee, the southernmost point in Canada (just below the northern California border!), and finally it will end up back on the west coast in Vancouver on Feb. 12, 2010 to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremonies. The cauldron will remain lit until the end of the Games, when it will be extinguished during the Closing Ceremonies.

In ancient Greece, fire was considered sacred and a fire was kept burning in Olympia, Greece for the duration of the Olympic Games. Fire has been part of the modern Olympic Games since being reintroduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is a link between the ancient and modern Olympics. The torch relay event was actually introduced at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany as a propaganda exercise to showcase Adolf Hitler’s Germany to the world. Even with such a nefarious beginning, the torch relay has become an important part of both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.


More Information:
Vocabulary Spotlight On: The Olympics

You can watch the lighting ceremony in Greece here:
The short version from Reuters
The long version (in Greek)

You can read more about the history of the torch here:
The Olympic Museum: The Olympic Flame and Torch Relay
(BBC) The Olympic Torch’s Shadowy Past

You can read more about the torch relay through Canada here:
Olympic Torch Relay Interactive Map

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