NEWS

Surreal moments for the Olympic Flame

It seems simple enough – an athlete runs up to a cauldron carrying a lighted torch and touches the flame to the cauldron, which catches alight to burn day and night until the closing ceremony. But Murphy’s law holds true everywhere, often with crazy results. The latest incident in Ancient Olympia, when a policeman tried to suppress a demonstrator with one hand and his hat with the other is just one in a string of mishaps, some more serious than others, in the ceremonial relay around the world. They include the Australian farmer who in 2000 did his stretch of torchbearing on his tractor. Also Down Under, a man wielding a fire extinguisher once tried to spoil another torchbearer’s run. When the flame arrived in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, for the 1956 Winter Olympics, it was the first time the Games were broadcast on television. When the final torchbearer entered the stadium, he was tripped up by an electrical cable in front of the entire crowd, but managed to finish his run and light the cauldron. In 1968, as the final torchbearer, javelin champion Christos Pierrakos, approached the cauldron, the fuel from the torch he was holding – and the flame – ran down over his arm. He was able to light the cauldron, but not to participate in the Games themselves, due to his injury. Another flame victim was Australian track athlete Ron Clark, who at the age of 19 was chosen to light the cauldron at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, and burnt his hand while touching his torch to the cauldron. The technicians had increased the gas flow to the cauldron, afraid that it would not light. Thirty-four years later, Clark was asked once again to light the Olympic cauldron in Sydney, at the 2000 Games. He was naturally hesitant, but was persuaded that the technology was then foolproof. At the rehearsal, however, another fuel leak spread over Clark’s hand and forearm, burning him once again. At the Montreal Olympics in 1976, a worker at the stadium during a downpour that extinguished the flame decided to take matters into his own hands and relit the flame with his cigarette lighter. He later confessed his misdemeanor and the flame was relit with one of the reserve flames that are always kept just in case of such an accident.