No Torch here

The tradition of the Olympic Flame apparently symbolises the theft of fire from Zeus by Prometheus. The torch relay seems to have been started by Joseph Goebbels for the Olympic Games in Germany in 1936.

Traditionally the torch has been conveyed from Mount Olympus to the city where the games are to be held. For the 2004 Olympics in Athens, there was a change with the torch went on a bit of an odyssey around the world. This time around that plan has been repeated. It has, however, started to go a bit wrong; the theme was “Journey of Harmony”. Unfortunately the journey has been somewhat lacking in harmony; on the London leg a number of people refused to carry the torch and there were manyprotests over Tibet (in which Anna Lo’s son was involved). Paris saw several episodes where the torch bearers had to retreat into a bus to avoid Tibet protestors and the procession was cut short. Now the International Olympic Committee is considering what the best next move is as some feel that it is “damaging the Olympic movement”. However, Olympic Commission chief Kevan Gospar said that this year’s 137,000km torch relay will continue as planned, “but certainly, the IOC executive board should review the torch relay programme for the future.”

This may not be quite what the Chinese authorities had hoped for.

  • BfB

    The Chinese commie government is very bad. This is how they operate, anywhere they want. Mega polluters, murderers, on and on. Treated with kid gloves by the socialist liberals.
    Tsk tsk.

  • BfB

    And if this is true, it’s jihad against the Chinese polluters!!

  • joeCanuck

    And at the same time, let’s have a go at those that created all that CO2 already in the atmosphere.

  • joeCanuck

    Especially the largest current polluter.

  • Steve

    Shhh Joe don’t tell bob that his wee country is the globally dominant polluter of all times.

    Not that facts will get in his way from having a good rant

  • People’s Autonomous Region of Tibet

    What did the Chinese ever do for us?

    Put an end to feudalism. Improved the infrastrure, roads, railways etc. Made us less monocultural (all signs and info are now in Chinese). Introduced new cuisine (where previously there was only yak butter and burnt flour), regulated religion – and they did it all in 50 years! How long did it take the British to achieve similar goals Ireland – centuries.

  • BfB

    ‘Treated with kid gloves by the socialist liberals.
    Tsk tsk.’

    Thanks for making my point kids!!!

    You may want to do a bit of research on the whole c02 thing. I did.

  • China is a godless, terrorist fascist state. Nazi Germany of Stalin’s Gulag are benighn comapred to these imperialist zombies. The Alliance member is privileged to have raised a son that stood up to this modern Nazi state. We are blessed to have her and her son. It is an insult that he has been charged. The Olympic Committee should be shipped off to The hague to explain their collusion.

    An excellent post. Let’s get back to the spirit of the early Colomband and convert these godless heathens to the truth.

  • A certain blogger of distinction was making a similar point a couple of weeks back, long before the present hoo-ha.

    Just as “Churchill” gets all the unattributable quotations that won’t comfortably fit under “Wodehouse”, the Reichsminister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda seems to be credited with most things Nazi-kitsch. I suggest that this one is not his.

    The Olympic flame had appeared at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. The nonsense of the torch relay might more properly be ascribed to Albert Speer, as part of the 1936 Berlin charade, and the glorification of Nazism it involved. There’s an article out there by one Elias Iliopoulis who shares the blame around a bit more:

    In May 1936 the International Olympic Committee convened in Greece… The President of the German Olympic Committee, Dr. Lewald, and General Secretary Dr. Carl Diem, together with their Greek counterparts, Ioannis Ketseas and Alexandros Philadelpheas, conceived the idea of lighting the“sacred flame” and organising the great Olympic Torch Relay. It was an attempt to highlight the fact that Olympic tradition continues through time and belongs to all nations on Earth.

    Maurice Roche wrote it up:

    At the opening ceremony the recorded voice of Baron de Coubertin was relayed, Hitler declared the games open, and the legendary winner of the first modern Olympic marathon, Spiridon Louis, who led the Greek team, presented him with a symbolic olive branch from Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece… At the opening ceremony the symbolic Olympic flame was dramatically lit for the first time ever by a torch from the torch relay carrying a flame originally lit at Olympia. The world’s biggest ever aircraft, the 300-metre long Hindenburg airship flew over the stadium and the city trailing huge flags. At night Hitler’s architect Albert Speer created impressive new dramatic ‘light architecture’ effects with powerful searchlights over the stadium, which echoed his similar ‘theatre of power’ effects at the 1934 Nuremberg rally…

  • Mustapha Mond

    I think it’s a silly ritual, pointless, twee and dull to watch.

    To me, in all my pragmatism, it’s a competition for athletes, I see no point in holding up the games with naff pseudo-religious guff i.e. the torch has to have a special lighting ceremony… as if noone had a packet of Swan Vestas on them.

    This is the first time anything interesting happened in it.

    Whad do you think about it Turgon?

  • joeCanuck

    Sometimes things fly right over our heads. Need more clues.

  • Mustapha Mond

    Yeah gimme more clues.

    Do you remember the Winter Olympics a while back, I think it was in your own backyard in Calgary… People dressed up as fairies symbolising this and that, while prancing around on the ice, holding up the sports.

  • Turgon

    Mustapha Mond,
    I agree entirely. I am not very into sport anyhow but all this nonsense is remarkably silly. The Olympics is a reasonably interesting sporting spectacle but the torch and as Malcolm says a sort of semi pagan mumbo jumbo is actually pretty laughable.

  • BfB

    Yes, that’s right, eff the whole tradition, honor, competition, may the best man win, rubbish. We EU beta males can’t compete with real men anyway..’BEHIND THE SKIRTS!’
    Get the t-shirts made up girls……

  • Harry Flashman

    *Just as “Churchill” gets all the unattributable quotations that won’t comfortably fit under “Wodehouse”,*

    I’ve never really heard anyone ascribing pithy quotes to Wodehouse, perhaps you mean Wilde?

    The difference is of course that most of the smart one liners attributed to ol’ Winnie were actually made by him.

  • Wilde Rover

    “Mega polluters, murderers, on and on. Treated with kid gloves by the socialist liberals.”

    Poor Bob, I think your trolling powers are beginning to fade.

    For the sake of argument, let’s follow your comments through to their natural conclusion. What would you propose your country should do to express outrage?

    Well, you could impose sanctions on them, but all that would mean is that the shelves of your stores would be empty and your consumer-based economy would collapse.

    You could refuse to sell them US bonds, but then you wouldn’t be able to pay for your labyrinthine security focused public sector, and your economy would probably collapse.

    You could stop going to them every day, cupped hands outstretched begging for billions in cash loans to pay for your endless wars, but then your economy would collapse.

    You could spend every day bad mouthing them until they became so enraged that they dumped all their huge piles of US dollars onto the market out of spite, crashing the dollar, but then your economy would collapse.

    And if you’re not trolling and you truly believe everything you post here then you have my pity because clearly reality is not your friend.

  • Harry Flashman @ 01:43 AM1:

    most of the smart one liners attributed to ol’ Winnie were actually made by him.

    The further I dig into the attribution of quotations, the less convinced I am that most are “original”.

    This was well illustrated by the exchange:

    Wilde to Whistler: “I wish I’d said that.”
    Whistler to Wilde: “You will, Oscar, you will.”

    I see that exchange (which I recall being told me in the late 1950s) is now itself being cited to come from a sketch in Monty Python.

    Equally, we all know the rebuttal to:

    “Winston, you’re drunk!”
    “Madam, you’re ugly. But tomorrow I’ll be sober.”

    Now try to discover, for certain, who was the lady MP in question.

    You will find that it is either Bessie Braddock (unlikely: they were hardly on first-name terms, especially on Bessie’s side) or Nancy Astor (would Churchill, even fluthered, have insulted a society hostess and potent political figure?). However, I reckon, if it happened, the personage was Dame Irene Ward (whom I recall, about 1967, boarding the Newcastle express at King’s Cross. A truly regal progress). She was — err — “striking” in appearance, indeed.

    Last Summer I came across Iain Dale attributing Churchill with:

    “Remember: to be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life.”

    Dale was following numerous similar references on the Net and elsewhere.

    Others give it to Kipling. I have even seen it, yes, put in the mouth of “Plum” Wodehouse. Now try to source it.

    I put out a challenge on my own and other sites to find an earlier citing than Peter Ustinov in his autobiography, Dear Me of 1977. I referred to page 64 (of the paperback edition, which I happened on in the 5p bin outside a local Charity shop), where it is quoted as Cecil Rhodes’s advice to a “nervous young officer”.

    Nobody has come back to me on that yet.

    Still, I feel it sounds very much like a witticism from Ustinov himself. He was, as it happens, born in St John’s Wood.

  • Good article on this on the Tele site…

    Aryan ideals, not ancient Greece, were the inspiration behind flame tradition

  • Mustapha Mond

    “Yes, that’s right, eff the whole tradition, honor, competition, may the best man win, rubbish.”

    What for? those ideals are pretty noble, but they arent embodied in a ‘B’ list celebrity pottering about London with a Bunsen burner that is venerated like some holy relic.

    “Beta males…”
    Dont know what that is.
    It’s all DVDs now… so the young’uns keep telling me, and something called a Blue Ray, I dont know what that is either.

  • Pat Black @ 04:52 PM:

    Good to see that the Telly has caught up with Slugger from earlier this week (and with one, Malcolm Redfellow, from last month).

    In all fairness, there is some evidence that the torch relay did originate in Classical Greece.

    It was the start of the Great Panathenaia, held the year before each Olympiad. The fire was carried from the Akademos, the shrine of Athene outside the walls of Athens, to the Agora, where it kindled a woollen wick.

    In case anyone thinks this is nobler than we might expect, wait for the rest of the story.

    The burning of the cotton-wool refers to the legend that Athene was pursued by a randy Hephaestus. She avoided his rape (and preserved her virginity), but he ejaculated on her thigh. She wiped it off with a piece of wool, which she threw to the ground. This fertilised Gaia (the Earth) to produce Erichthonius (half-man, half-snake).

    I await the Freudian interpretation of all this.

    As for my previous posting (@ 3.55PM), I would want to correct my sweeping generalisation about “most” quotations, to say that too many attributions do not stand up to scrutiny.

    Another example (which I think I have seen on Slugger) is:

    “When I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my gun.”

    More correctly, this should be:

    “When I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my Browning.”

    This second version is sufficiently ambiguous to be witty, as one might expect from Hermann Göring, who was almost unique among the Nazis by having some grasp of aesthetics, and therefore deserving of having the attribution. Speer, whom I still maintain deserves any “credit” for the torch-stuff, at Nuremberg and for the 1936 Olympiad, may have been the only other member of that despicable shower capable of any cultural pretence.

    If Göring ever said it, he was adapting a 1933 quotation from the anti-semite and Nazi playwright Hanns Johst, from a drama performed for Hitler’s 44th birthday.

    It all adds to my distaste for the whole charade.

  • Harry Flashman

    Cecil Rhodes is certainly the only man I ever heard cited as being the originator of that quotation Malcolm.

    Rhodes was after all quintessentially English whereas Ustinov played very much upon his citizen of the world image.

  • Harry Flashman @ 01:04 AM:

    As you correctly say.

    However, the challenge stands: find the when and where to buttress that as a statement by Rhodes, and you’ve done the world of history and literary criticism a small, but useful service. All I say is I can’t.

    We are surrounded by inaccuracy and misrepresentation (as so many of the opposing “arguments” in these threads show). I am as guilty as most; but seek for definition and certainty. Once in a while I receive correction and clarification here or elsewhere: I am better for it; and with luck others, too, will see more clearly. That is the mission for which I am mocked when I make an overlong historical reference. “The devil is in the detail” in history as everything else. Where more so than Ireland and things Irish/Northern Irish/Ulster is that more obvious?

    A further example: we all know the saying “Let sleeping dogs lie”. Who first coined it? At school, I was told it was Charles II’s response to those who demanded revenge on the regicides (but that was a bowdlerising of what he probably said, borrowing a Dutch proverb: “A stir’d turd stinks”). So, where did the saying originate? Is it in Shakespeare? Chaucer? Milton? It surely must be venerable and of great age. Yet, the earliest proven attribution I have is David Copperfield, chapter 39, which makes it as recent as 1839.

    This thread began (and should end) with the Olympic torch. What I have been trying to point out is that the torch-relay is a symbol which we can do without, and which has a disgraceful modern origin. I am delighted that others agree with me. It is not an integral part of the whole Olympic thing; but is widely treated as such. It is a quotation from Nuremberg rallies and Der Triumph des Willens. We seem stuck with this torch thing because, (pace Ian Fleming and James Bond) “Once is happenstance; twice is circumstance; three times is enemy action”.

    For me, it represents the nauseating shrill nationalism which has replaced the Olympic ideal, rooted in de Coubertin’s admiration for the mens sana in corpore sano of the English public-school tradition. The “taking part” is now a poor second to the “taking apart” which has become the end of modern zero-sum “sport”. Heil!

  • pith

    The torch relay did indeed start with the Berlin Games of 1936 in an effort to link Nazism with ancient Greece. The flame had been used in Amsterdam in 1928 and again in Los Angeles in 1932 but the relay idea is purely Nazi. I wonder what happened with the revival of the games in 1948 but I suppose the relay survived otherwise we wouldn’t have what Mustapha Mond correctly describes as the twee, silly and dull to watch ritual we have now. It is ironic that something devised by the Nazi regime has become symbolic of a movement created with ideas of peace and international understanding at its core. A symbolic switching off of the flame would have more value than its Forrest Gump trail around the world.

  • pith @ 11:30 AM:

    The chapter and verse of what you say is in the Telly report in the introduction to the thread, and above, especially in posts no. 9, but modified in no. 20.

    In the 1948 London Olympics, the final leg of the 3,372-runner torch relay was done by John Mark. It’s all on wikipedia.

    One moment that does seem to have symbolic merit was at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when the flame was lit by a guy, born on 6 August, 1945, at Hiroshima.

  • pith

    Malcolm Redfellow,

    My laziness then in not reading what everyone had posted. Still, I will arrogantly state that the little I know about this subject comes from a few decent books published over the last 40 years. Wikipedia has its place but it’s not on my bookshelves.

    I was unaware that Albert Speer was connected with the torch relay though the bit your cut and pasted on Carl Diem is certainly correct.