HomeTop StoriesThe 5,000 kilometer Olympic torch relay is in full swing. Here's...

The 5,000 kilometer Olympic torch relay is in full swing. Here’s what you need to know about the symbolic tradition.

Olympic medals in Paris with pieces of iron from the Eiffel Tower


Olympic medals in Paris with pieces of iron from the Eiffel Tower

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The Olympic flame has been lit in Olympia, Greece, starting the torch relay for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Before each Summer Olympics, the torch is lit at the ancient site where the games were founded, returning the event to its roots.

The torch will be carried to the host city by runners and other modes of transportation. This year the torch will be carried to Athens and then taken across the Mediterranean Sea to Marseille, France, on a three-masted sailboat. It will travel with athletes through France and its islands until it lands in Paris on July 26 for the opening ceremony of the games.

Boats will take the torch to islands such as Martinique and French Polynesia. A full list of stops can be found on the Olympic website and the relay will be streamed live. It takes 68 days to complete the 3,100-mile relay.

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Lighting ceremony of the Olympic Flame
Greek actress Mary Mina, who plays the role of the High Priestess, holds the torch during the flame lighting ceremony for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris at the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games in southern Greece on 16 April 2024 in Olympia, Greece.

MILOS BICANSKI / Getty Images


A selection process began in June 2023 to choose the whopping 10,000 athletes who will carry the flame.

The torch never goes out during the relay. A new torch is designed for each Olympic Games, specially made to withstand the elements. The flame is usually fueled by gas and can burn longer than the relay needs. It rests overnight in a special cauldron.

A special ceremony was held in Olympia on Tuesday, during which an actress lit the flame at the temple of the Greek goddess Hera.

The Olympic flame is lit in Olympia
The first torchbearer, 2020 Olympic rowing champion Stefanos Ntouskos, receives the flame from Greek actress Mary Mina, who plays the High Priestess, during the lighting ceremony for Paris 2024 at the site of Ancient Olympia.

Socrates Baltagiannis/Photo Alliance via Getty Images


The ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia from 776 BC to 393 AD and the first modern Olympic Games began in Athens in 1896.

But the symbolic torch was not used until the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam and the first relay took place in 1936 prior to the Olympic Games in Berlin.

The relay has been held before every Summer Olympic Games since then and is even included in the Olympic rule book, which states: “The Olympic flame is the flame lit at Olympia under the authority of the IOC.”

Olympic swimmer Florent Manaudou was chosen as leader for one of the relays.

“It’s incredible to be captain. When you discover the Games as a child, you see the sporting part, but also the Olympic torch, which is very symbolic,” Manaudou said. “I am very happy to show all the beautiful landscapes we have in France.”

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