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What does the Olympic flame represent?

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Quick Answer

The Olympic flame represents the fire that the Greek Titan Prometheus stole from the gods and gave to man. For the Greeks, fire had a divine connotation and was used in their religious rites. Because the original Olympic games were meant to honor Zeus, fire was included as part of the ceremony.

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Full Answer

In ancient Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan and trickster who creates man out of clay. Against the wishes of the Olympian gods, Prometheus gives man fire, thus enabling humanity's progress and development.

The Olympic games were not only an athletic competition, but a religious celebration. Their purpose was to praise and glorify Zeus. Because of the religious nature of the games, fire was an integral symbol. The local people simultaneously lit fires at the nearby temples of Zeus and Hera.

Although the modern Olympics do not retain the religious dimension of the original games, the Olympic flame remains a key part of the tradition. Today, the flame represents Man's progress, achievement and a striving for noble ideals than transcend individual persons or countries.

The first lighting of the Olympic flame in the modern games took place during the 1928 Amsterdam Games. German sports administrator Carl Diem came up with the idea for the torch relay, which was first performed during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

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