Peace ‘n’ Love ‘n’ the Olympic Torch

The New York Times published an excellent piece this morning about the origins of the Olympic torch relay and how it relates both to the ancient Greeks and our enlightened 2008 world. The story recounts the invention of the torch-lighting ritual and relay especially for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Leni Riefenstahl‘s intended paean to Aryan culture, the film “Olympia.” I remember the movie’s opening sequence, but had no idea at all that I was watching the birth of the whole torch routine. In the movie, the Times’s piece recounts, “the torch is conveyed from one bearer to the next and ends in Berlin at a 110,000-seat stadium where it ignites an altar of flame. Through shimmering heat the sun itself can be seen, vibrating in sympathy. And Hitler salutes the cheering crowds. This passing of the torch thus demonstrates a lineage of inheritance — a historical relay — making Nazi Germany the living heir to Ancient Greece. A claim was being staked. ”

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