"..a bardy view!"

What’s the difference between an Olympic Torch and an Olympic Flame?

TorchI raise the question because already some torches that have been carried so far in the UK (within three days of seventy) are up for sale on eBay.

Some are being auctioned for charity, and some for purely personal gain.

I always thought that the Olympic torch was the same one carried throughout the journey from Olympia in Greece to wherever the final destination was, and back again to its birthplace.

There are 8000 torch bearers traversing the UK, and by all accounts, each one has their own.

This is nothing new and China relayed her torches 80,000 miles over six continents.

How many were used for that I wonder? In any event the 8000 miles covering the UK is small fry in comparison.

According to Wikipedia, 6,100 torches were used in the Moscow Olympics, whereas at the Helsinki Games of 1952 there were a mere 22. The pattern of course is that the number of torches increases exponentially by the increased commercialisation and profit. Anyone who thinks that the Olympics are not about money and politics needs their head examining.

But the idealism stands, and the torch bearers, chosen because they have contributed to their local community, or achieved success through adversity etc. etc., are representative of all that is good in society. It is an honour to be chosen to carry a torch, but that doesn't extend to flogging one on eBay. After all, what does one do with a torch once the flame has gone out?

Indeed, in the past, where did these torches end up when there were no online auction sites? Perhaps people actually cherished them as a memento of their grand moment?

As it happens, and this is the crux of the matter, the chosen custodians of the torch have paid £215 for the privilege of bearing it. That's a fair dosh in today’s austere climate, so why not flog the thing and make a fast buck? Four years ago Beijing torches were being sold quicker than a chicken chow mien and prawn crackers from a Chinese take-away, but at least they were originally issued to the bearers for free.

So why so many torches and what's the difference between a torch and a flame? The general consensus is that it would be impossible to keep a flame alight for 70 days in the same receptacle; the fuel alone would require a torch the size of Nelson’s Column. Clearly that would be impossible to carry. So at each relay, a torch passes on the flame to another fully fuelled torch, and so on after each mile. Each torch has only 10 minutes of fuel in it.

Yet, after only three days, one of the torches went out prematurely, and was relit by – and this will amaze you – a back-up flame! A flame protected in a miner’s lamp – a similar device which brought the flame on British Airways to London from Greece!

Indeed there are two back-up flames which follow a torch. Is it not so unreasonable to assume that if a back-up flame can be carried, surely so can the fuel to restock a torch? And if that sounds ridiculous, then why not have re-fuelling bays at selected points of call? Presumably these back-up lamps are being continually refueled, after all, if an original flame goes out, one can hardly re-ignite it with a strike of Swan Vestas. So is there a back-up of the back-up and at what point does it actually end? Perhaps someone will enlighten me!

By all means have a dozen or so spare torches, but 8000! Speaking of torch followers, there are 70 London Metropolitan police officers working in shifts to protect them (and the flame) and babysit them overnight; plus a convoy of 15 vehicles which also travel behind it, including two buses to carry the torch bearers for that particular day, a media bus, a police bus, a command car and several sponsor vehicles. The carbon footprint for this little flame has been calculated as the equivalent of driving a Toyota Prius Hybrid for more than 1.4million miles.  So that's ok then is it?

But let's not be killjoys about all this. The London Olympic Committee are experts at squeezing 101 pence from every sterling pound, so if their hypocritical and sanctimonious ethos is being knocked by a few equally hypocritical and sanctimonious torch bearers, then it serves them right!

Still, those who play with fire……


May 22, 2012 - Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, History, Politics, Sport


  1. Excellent and thought provoking read as always. Who would have thought there was money to be made from the ‘honour’ of carrying an Olympic torch? Strange, strange world we live in today? Baby you can light my fire.


    Comment by Spook Moor | May 23, 2012 | Reply

  2. Oh my goodness. There’s so much here that I did not realise – but then today I heard that Worcester Council arranged part of the route through a Sports Stadium and sold tickets.


    Comment by AJ | May 25, 2012 | Reply

  3. o kea


    Comment by eileen | August 24, 2012 | Reply

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