The torch relay that culminates in the ceremonial lighting of the flame at the Olympic stadium was ordered by Adolf Hitler, who tried to make the 1936 Berlin Games a celebration of the Third Reich. Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine also popularized the five interlocking rings as the symbol of the Games.
Now, both are universally recognized icons of the Olympics. But historians say neither had much, if anything, to do with the Games born centuries ago in ancient Olympia.
“The torch relay is so ingrained in the modern choreography that most people today assume it was a revival of a pagan tradition – unaware that it was actually concocted for Hitler’s Games in Berlin,” the author Tony Perrottet wrote in “The Naked Olympics” (Random House, 2004).
Perrottet added, “Ironically, considering its repellent origins, the torch race has come to symbolize international brotherhood today, and remains a centerpiece of our own pomp-filled Olympic opening ceremonies.”