Fun facts about the Olympic torch

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Here are some facts and figures about the Olympic torch.

&3149; The torch for the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay was designed by Georgia Tech mechanical engineering professor Sam Shelton, who also designed the torch used in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. The artistic design concept is by the Los Angeles firm Axium, but it was Shelton's job to make sure the torches worked. It took Shelton about nine months to create the torches, from receiving the design sketches to building the working torches. Shelton also designed the 90-foot-high ceremonial cauldron that will hold the flame during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, plus he designed the Union Pacific cauldron car that will transport the flame from city to city along the nation's railways.

&3149; The torch is designed to withstand a variety of weather conditions - including heavy winds, snow, rain, heat and extreme cold. The torch was tested to make sure the flame will stay lit in all conditions from minus 40 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

&3149; The artistic design concept is a fiery icicle, with flame coming out of ice. The body of the torch is tapered with an antique silver finish and dark-shaded grooves that run from top to bottom. The 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics logo and the words "Light the fire within," are etched into the front of the torch. The outer shell is made from aluminum and plating to produce the look of a polished chrome finish. The top of the torch features a glass crown, a first for Olympic torches. The flame comes out of a small copper cauldron within the glass crown, which protects the flame from the elements.

&3149; The materials used for the torch each represent ideals of the Winter Olympic Games. Glass represents winter and nature, as well as ice and purity. High-polished silver represents modern technology. The aged silver finish stands for the heritage, traditions and heirlooms of the American West. Copper represents the fire, warmth and passion of Utah's history.

&3149; Each torch holds about 27 minutes worth of fuel, which is a combination of butane and propylene stored in a 4-ounce tank inside the torch. A valve-and-burner system within the torch keeps the flame lit, even in adverse weather and at high altitude. It is expected the average 0.2-mile leg of the Olympic Torch Relay will last about eight minutes. On some legs, the torchbearer will carry the torch for about 20 minutes. The flame burns about 20 inches high, when there's no wind, and it is visible even in bright sunlight.

&3149; The flame that it used to light the Salt Lake City cauldron during the 2002 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies on Feb. 8 has to be the same flame that was retrieved from the International Olympic Committee's cauldron in Athens, Greece. Several safety lanterns were lit in Athens to be used as back-up flames should a torch burn out along the route.

&3149; Even though the torches look as if they were individually handcrafted, there were about 12,000 torches that were mass produced. Each torchbearer has the opportunity to buy his or her torch after the relay is over, and each torch costs $335.

&3149; Each torch is 33 inches long and weighs 3 pounds. The torch is 3 inches wide at the top and half an inch wide at the bottom.

The information used for this article was obtained from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, Georgia Tech's Olympic torch Web site and the Associated Press.

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