The Torch Relay in Brazil Begins! Rio’s Torch Has a Twist

Rio Olympic Torch closed and open

The torch for the 1964 Tokyo Games was as plain and utilitarian as can be – black handle and thin silver metal cylinder. Over the years, the torch has taken all shapes and forms, with the Winter Games torches in particular tending to the gaudy. But the Rio torch, which will embark on a 3-month journey through Brazil, is both simple and colorful, thanks to an innovative design.

A picture of me with a replica of the 1964 Summer Games torch.
The Rio torch starts off as a narrow cone, completely white save for the Rio Olympic emblem. As Wired Magazine describes it, “with a satin aluminum finish, it looks almost clinical in its simplicity.”

But, as Wired continues to explain, something happens when you activate the torch and ready it for the flame exchange, or “the kiss” as it is called.

“Then you open it. At the moment of the kiss—the handoff from one torch bearer to another—the runner will turn a knob to ignite the gas valve, which will simultaneously cause the top of the white cone to expand, revealing five ribbons of bright, metallic colors.”

Click on this link to see a GIF showing this transformation.

The ribbons of gray, blue and green represent the ground, sea and mountains of Brazil, capped off by the golden top of the torch, which represents the sun.

The Olympic flame had begun its journey on April 21, born of a spark created by the sun in a parabolic mirror, housed on site at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece. Starting today, May 3, the Rio torch will begin its relay through Brazil, where over 10,000 people will run with the torch for at least 200 meters, taking the flame through some 500 cities and towns across the vast South American nation.