The Olympic flame is the most visible symbol of the Olympic Games. Its origins can be traced to ancient Greece, where it commemorated the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus. Fire – considered a sacred element in Greek mythology – burned continuously throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympic Games in Olympia, which were first held in 776 BC and staged every four years for the nearly 12 centuries that followed.

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Temple Chen Tien, in Foz do Iguaçu. 

André Mourão/Rio2016

Messengers traveled throughout Greece to let people know that Games time was approaching. The competition became a period of peace during a time when wars were frequent. In fact, all conflicts were suspended during the Games to ensure that athletes and fans could safely gather to compete and watch.

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Fernando Soutello/Rio2016

The Games were discontinued before returning in 1896 in Athens. The Olympic flame was officially (re)introduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and has been a prominent part of the modern Olympic Games ever since.

The Olympic Torch Relay was first introduced in 1936 in Berlin. The flame was lit in Olympia and traveled across seven countries before reaching the German capital.

Every time the Games are held, the local organizing committee selects a designer to put his or her creative mark on the Olympic Torch. While the look varies slightly from Games to Games, every version of the Torch shares a common goal: to bring the Olympic spirit to the host country.

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City Encantado. 

André Luiz Mello/Rio2016

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games Torch was designed by the agency Chelles & Hayashi from São Paulo, which was chosen from 76 agencies by a multidisciplinary jury. Made of recycled aluminum, its design encapsulates movement, innovation and Brazilian flavor, and reflects the meeting of the Olympic flame with the warmth of the people of Brazil. Unlit, the torch is all white, but once ignited in the “kiss of the flame” moment when the Torch transfers the Olympic Flame to another, it expands to shows the colors of the country’s natural landscape: yellow for the sun; green representing the mountains; and blue signifying the sea.

The upper part of the torch is made of several segments, which open and expand vertically when the flame is passed. The body of the torch where each runner holds it has a texture made of small triangles to symbolize the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.

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Lanterns. 

André Luiz Mello/Rio2016

The torch landed in Brasilia on May 3, kicking off the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay. The epic journey is making its way through 329 Brazilian cities en route to Maracana Stadium, where the Olympic Pyre will be lit during opening ceremonies.