Was the Olympic Torch Relay Started by the Nazis?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about the Olympics and Olympians and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Olympic urban legends featured so far.

SPORTS LEGEND: The Olympic Torch Relay was started by the Nazis.

The Olympic Flame has long been associated with the Olympics. During the Ancient Greek Olympics, flames would be kept lit all throughout the Games.

But when did it begin?

The practice of the Olympic Flame did not originally return with the return of the (now World) Olympic Games in 1896.

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The 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam returned the practice of lighting an Olympic Torch, but the torch was simply lit in Amsterdam.

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The modern Olympic Torch relay is NOT something that occurred in Ancient Greece.

Rather, the current relay is an invention of Dr. Carl Diem, the Minister of German Sports for the Nazis and the Head of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin (note that Diem was the head of German Sports BEFORE the Nazis, as well – and had actually been named in charge of the Olympic Games before Hitler even came to power).

He thought it would be a dramatic opening to the Games and Adolf Hitler heartily agreed. Hitler felt that the Ancient Greeks were forebears to the Aryans, and thought that having the Flame transported from Olympia to Berlin would demonstrate that quite nicely.

Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl filmed the relay.

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Really, it’s amazing that something that feels like such an ancient tradition was started as recently as 1936, and started as Nazi propaganda!

STATUS: True.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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8 Responses to “Was the Olympic Torch Relay Started by the Nazis?”

  1. [...] As we’ve discussed in the past, Adolf Hitler was really into the idea of Germany hosting the Olympics in 1936. He looked at the Olympics as a perfect way to show the world that Germany was made of the finest stock in the world. [...]

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