The XXXI edition of the Olympic Games will start on the coming 5th of August. One of the most suggestive moments of the Olympiad is the opening ceremony, during which the Olympic cauldron is lighted by the last torchbearer, an emblematic figure that is unknown until the day of the inauguration.
Interesting facts about this prominent figure
The figure of torchbearer was re-introduced in the Modern Age only in 1936, at the Berlin Olympic Games. The first famous athlete, who participated as torchbearer, was Paavo Nurmi, the nine-time Olympic champion in long and middle distance runs, who lighted the cauldron in Helsinki in 1952. Instead, a sprinter, Enriqueta Basilio, was the first woman chosen as torchbearer in the Olympic Games of Mexico City, in 1968. A few years earlier, in the Rome Olympiad of 1960, the winner of the Rome cross-country on the same year, Giancarlo Peris was chosen to light the cauldron as a symbolic gesture to represent the amateur sports. Four years later, in Tokyo, another symbolic decision was made: the torchbearer was Yoshinori Sakai, an athlete who was born in Hiroshima on the same day of the explosion of the atomic bomb. Moreover, a peculiar event occurred in Barcelona, in 1992; Antonio Rebollo, the Paralympic archer who won three Olympic medals, was the last torchbearer and during the opening ceremony, he lighted the Olympic flame shooting his arrow.
The relay of torchbearers is also a tradition of the Winter Olympic Games. In particular, Michel Platini, known French footballer, and Stefania Belmondo, a skier who holds the record in the Winter Italian Olympic medal collection, participated as last torchbearers in the Winter Olympic Games of Albertville (1992) and Turin (2006), respectively.
An unforgettable torchbearer is that of the Olympic Games of Atlanta in 1996: Muhammad Ali, the world heavyweight champion who has recently passed away, lighted the Olympic cauldron; he moved the entire audience, because he was already trembling, due to Parkinson disease.
In the last edition, seven young British athletes initialized the London Olympiad.
Who will be the next torchbearer in the 2016 Olympiad of Rio? “Let’s start betting”!