The Kotinos | Olympic Emblem | Torch Relay | SEE Also

The Kotinos

κότινος

The kotinos is an olive branch intertwined to form a circle. To be crowned with this wreath was the award that the athletes of the ancient Olympic Games competed for. However, this was not their only reward; usually the athlete was rewarded with a generous sum of money by his hometown.
At Athens, 2004 the kotinos tradition was renewed, although in this case it was bestowed together with the gold medal. Indeed, athletes felt very honored to receive a kotinos. Apart from its use in the awards-ceremonies, the kotinos was chosen as the 2004 Summer Olympics emblem.

Crete, the age old cross road of civilizations, the cradle of knowledge and the cornerstone of modern Europe, is awarded a leading role in the events as its major town, Heraklion, has been nominated Olympic city to host the first events of the Olympic Games. Renowned historical figures from Crete left their indelible marks in numerous ancient Olympic Games either as organizers or as athletes. Historical records provide incontestable proof that many ancient athletes from Crete returned to the island crowned with the “Kotinos”, the olive branch wreath awarded to Olympic winners.
Cretans have a tradition in taking the winners’ stand during Olympic Games, particularly in track events, a fact which is associated with the particular geomorphology of the Cretan terrain imposing “survival of the fittest” conditions. It is no accident that track competitors were pooled from the young and robust members of the Cretan populace. Cretan runners were distinguished for their speed and entitled to carry arms. This qualified them as military couriers who covered fast long distances on foot that were also combat ready.

IOC Emblem

Olympic Emblem

The flag features the emblem of the Olympic Games- five interlocking rings (blue, yellow, black, green, and red respectively) on a white field. This was originally designed in 1913 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, but gained widespread popularity due to its promotion by Nazi Germany. Upon its initial introduction, de Coubertin stated the following in the August, 1913 edition of Revue Olympique:

The emblem chosen to illustrate and represent the world Congress of 1914 ...: five intertwined rings in different colors - blue, yellow, black, green, red - are placed on the white field of the paper. These five rings represent the five parts of the world which now are won over to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition.

In his article published in the "Olympic Revue" the official magazine of the International Olympic Committee in November 1992, the American historian Robert Barney explains that the idea of the interlaced rings came to Pierre de Coubertin when he was in charge of the USFSA (Union des Sociétés Française de Sports Athlétiques): The emblem of the union was two interlaced rings (like the typical interlaced marriage rings) and originally the idea of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung because for him the ring meant continuity and the human being.

"The Olympic flag [...] has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre : blue, yellow, black, green and red [...] This design is symbolic ; it represents the five continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colors are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time." (1931) Textes choisis II, p.470.

The 1914 Congress had to be suspended due to the outbreak of World War I, but the flag and emblem were later adopted. They would first officially debut at the VIIth Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920.
The emblem's popularity and widespread use began during the lead-up to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Carl Diem, president of the Organizing Committee of the 1936 Summer Olympics, wanted to hold a torchbearers' ceremony in the stadium at Delphi, site of the famous oracle, where the Pythian Games were also held. For this reason he ordered construction of a milestone with the Olympic rings carved in the sides, and that a torchbearer should carry the flame along with an escort of three others from there to Berlin. The ceremony was celebrated but the stone was never removed. Later, two British authors Lynn and Gray Poole when visiting Delphi in the late 1950´s saw the stone and reported in their "History of the Ancient Games" that the Olympic rings design came from ancient Greece. This has become known as "Carl Diem's Stone". This created a myth that the symbol had an ancient Greek origin. The rings would subsequently be featured prominently in Nazi images and theatrics in 1936 as part of an effort to glorify the Third Reich and claim a noble and ancient lineage.
The current view of the International Olympic Committee is that the flag "reinforces the idea" that the Olympic Movement is international and welcomes all countries of the world to join. As can be read in the Olympic Charter, the Olympic symbol represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games. However, no continent is represented by any specific ring. Though colorful explanations about the symbolism of the colored rings exist, the only connection between the rings and the continents is that the number five refers to the number of continents; Europe, Asia, America, Oceania, Australia. Antarctica is omitted.

Torch Relay

Map of the torch relay.
Click on image to see actual size.

Twenty-eight cities around the world will be chosen to receive the global phase- the torch's tour around the globe- of the Olympic Flame's relay. In addition, 78 cities will receive the torch on the domestic phase through China.

Presented to the IOC in Moscow was the plan for a torch relay route that will take the Olympic flame through the sites of the great ancient civilizations- Greece, Italy, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, India and finally, China- although the route through the Middle East may not be guaranteed due to the political climate in the region. The 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay will achieve a world record as eighty specially trained mountaineers carry the Olympic flame to the top of Mount Everest (known to the Tibetans as Chomolangma; Simplified Chinese: 珠穆朗玛峰; Traditional Chinese: 珠穆朗瑪峰), making it the highest altitude achieved in the history of Olympic torch relays. It will be carried up the southern slope from Nepal before carried down the northern slope into the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Liu Qi, president of the 2008 Olympics organizing committee, has also expressed the wish that the torch relay be carried through Taiwan. Although the organizing committee has the relay mostly planned out, the IOC states that the torch relay route will not be decided until early 2007. The overall course of the torch relay, though, should take the Olympic flame from Athens in March 2008 through the Himalayas to Beijing and will be sponsored by soft drink giant, The Coca-Cola Company along side South Korean electronic giant Samsung.

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