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Sometimes people tell me things that interest me and I fail to perform my litmus test of truth on the new information. I, in turn, pass this information on to others as fact. Today, I cannot remember how many people I might have told that the Olympic flame was a tradition started by Adolf Hitler, but I do recall mentioning it in a conversation or two.

So, here is my retraction. It isn't true. The ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece had a fire burning for the entirety of the events in order to honor the fabled theft of the fire of Zeus by Prometheus. The story goes as follows:

Prometheus who was a descendant of the Titans, being half man and half god, was not allowed to live in Olympia with the gods since he was below them, but was too high above man to live with them. He decided to steal the fire of Zeus and give it to the humans. The humans saw him running down the mountain with the flame. He gave each man a spark of the fire. Some men did not keep it going, but some did and they became the geniuses. Olympia was dark without the fire and became envious of men, so Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to the mountains. He was too strong to die, though, and he was comforted by seeing the sparks of the fire glow in the night along the hillsides far below.

Stupid story, but that's where the Olympic Flame originated. It started up again in 1928 at the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. It was the 1936 Olympics in Berlin that brought on their influence on the traditional games. It was Joseph Goebbels that was the propaganda pusher for the Nazi regime that approved the running relay of the Olympic torch. Goebbels was the guy to take over if anything happened to Hitler. When Hitler committed suicide, Goebbels took his place, but only for one day as Goebbels committed suicide the following day. It was the first time the flame was ran over long distance. The idea was that this highly publicized relay would demonstrate the superiority of the Aryan race.

Today the Olympic torch is carried long distances usually from Olympia, Greece where eleven "priestesses" will start the fire by using the sun's rays concentrated by using a concave mirror much like a satellite dish. The flame is then ran to the site of the Olympic games and not necessarily by a white guy. So, much for superiority.

So, I was wrong. Adolf Hitler really had nothing to do with it, but the Nazi regime did begin the tradition of carrying it over a great distance. Today, it's still ran but I doubt that the majority of people know that it has any connection to Nazis. The entire tradition is wrapped around Greek Mythology anyway. It's interesting where traditions are started and why they are continued years later.


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