Jonas Brothers Go for Gold in NBC’s Olympics Special
It’s an honor that’s been given to a 12-year-old schoolgirl and a Crown Prince alike.
Since the tradition began 85 years ago, torchbearers from around the world have helped carry a symbolic flame from Olympia, Greece, to the international city hosting the Olympic games, making for the ultimate worldwide relay.
Celebrities including Harry Potter‘s Rupert Grint and Star Trek‘s Patrick Stewart have escorted the light on one part of its journey. But one final torchbearer sets the Olympic cauldron ablaze, which fires up the Opening Ceremony and pays homage to the origin of the global event.
The tradition began in ancient Greece, where they honored the gods by lighting a flame at the altar. The flame was first introduced into the modern Olympics at the 1928 Amsterdam event, though the relay began in 1936 with 3,000 runners passing the torch into Nazi Germany for the Berlin games.
For this year’s Tokyo Olympics, about 10,000 relay participants transported the torch (designed to resemble a cherry blossom) to Tokyo, uniting under the theme “Hope Lights Our Way,” according to NBC.
During the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 23, tennis star Naomi Osaka kicked things off by lighting the cauldron, which burst to life using hydrogen in order to offset carbon emissions.
The flame was first lit over a year ago, in March 2020, and taken to Japan. However, before it began its tour around the host country, the games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The torch was later displayed at the Olympic Museum in Tokyo, before the race began again in March 2021.
MOHD RASFAN/AFP, Getty Images
“For the past year, as the entire world underwent a difficult period, the Olympic flame was kept alive quietly but powerfully,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said at the launch event in March. “The small flame did not lose hope, and just like the cherry blossom buds that are ready to bloom, it was waiting for this day.”
Tune in to NBC to watch this year’s Olympic flame finally light up the games, after a year of waiting in the wings.
Here’s look back at some of the torchbearers that have ignited the Olympic cauldron in decades past.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony airs tonight, July 23 on NBC.