The Origins of the Olympic Torch Relay

Carl Diem, the organizer of the 1936 Olympic games, hosted by Nazi Germany, wanted an event that would link the ancient Olympics with the modern games, and came up with the Olympic torch relay as not only a link between the past and present, but also as a showcase of German engineering and science.  The Nazis saw Ancient Greece, especially the Spartans, as an Aryan forerunner of their own society.  The first torch was lit in Greece by mirrors made by Zeiss, and the steel-clad magnesium torches used to carry the flame were made by Krupp, two German companies.  The media coverage was constant, masterminded by Josef Goebbels, master of propaganda, who had dramatic photographs taken of the relay and radio coverage of the event.  The torch’s route passed through countries where Nazi Germany was especially desirous of increasing its influence, including Austria, where the passage was marked by pro-Nazi demonstrations.

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