The Olympic and Paralympic Games are coming up, and the world is on the edge of its collective fingers wondering who will light the torch in Rio De Janeiro. It is a quintessential part of the Olympic spirit to be eager to run towards the torch and begin the 26.2-mile (42km) marathon that leads to the stadium. The closer we get to the opening ceremony, the more anxious we become to know who will bring the flame to life.
To be clear, there will be more than one torchbearer. The International Olympic Committee have said there will be “a mixture of both sexes” because they want a “representative cross-section of modern society.” But knowing who will represent England, the United States of America, and Australia in particular, is what we really want to know.
Who Will It Be?
The answer may lie in Team GB’s performance in the Rio Olympic trials. In the end, four home-based athletes – Mo Farah, Chris Froome, Katrine De La Rue, and Andy Murray – made the final cut and will represent Great Britain at the Games. The same goes for New Zealand’s Amy Harris, who will also compete as its lone representative in the Women’s Marathon. So, that’s sixteen runners from United Kingdom and New Zealand making their debuts in the Olympics.
But who will light the Olympic flame in Rio? Will it be Britain’s oldest sportsman, Mo Farah, who finished eighth in the Men’s 10,000m final last year and has previously lit the Olympic Torch at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London? Or will it be Chris Froome, the Tour de France champion who dominated that epic race and took his second consecutive Tour de France title?
Or will it be the youngest member of the Team, Kazakhstan’s Almaz Tsymbaliyeva, who won the bronze medal in the Women’s 10,000m, or Australian Katrine De la Rue, who took home the silver in the same event?
Or will it be Andy Murray, the 2016 Wimbledon champion who successfully defended his title this year while taking home the gold in the Men’s Singles?
These are the athletes and personalities we will come to know as the torch is passed around the world. These are the men and women who will represent their countries in the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics. But who will light the torch in Rio?
The Eternal Flame
The Olympic flame is a symbol of the Summer Olympics that burns throughout the year, and not just at the Summer Olympics. Its significance is that it represents the continuous and everlasting spirit of sport. And it is not just a symbol, either – it is a fact. The Olympic flame has been lit at the Summer Olympic Games since 1896, and it will continue to burn until the last day of the Games.
The flame is an extension of the Olympic Games; it is not something apart from the Olympics. And this is important to keep in mind as we await the 2020 Olympics in Rio.
Olympic Sports And The Paralympic Spirit
The Paralympic Games, unlike the Summer Olympics, are a competition for competitors with a disability. The idea is to bring together the able-bodied athletes with the disabled community so that everyone can compete on an equal footing. As such, the Paralympic Games were founded in London in 1896 and were originally known as the King’s Paralympics. It was not until 1914 that they were officially renamed the Paralympics, and they have since been held every four years.
While the Paralympics share many of the same ideals as the Olympics – namely, that competition should be fair and that everyone should have equal opportunities – they are fundamentally different. The Paralympics are for people with a disability, whereas the Olympics are for able-bodied athletes. This is why the Paralympic Games feature sports that are accessible to the disabled community, such as archery, swimming, and wheelchair basketball. It also means that the Paralympics are a greater challenge for the participants. Each sport has a parallel in the Summer Olympics, so anyone can participate in both competitions. But the difference in terms of the level of competition is astounding.
Even before the Paralympics, disabled persons participated in competitive sport as the British Paralympic Association (BIPADA) was founded in 1894 for this purpose. And while we may never know exactly how the Paralympic Games would have performed if they had been held in 1920, we do know that the BIPADA would not have been able to compete for another nine years. This is because the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s saw a fall in both public spending and the number of people participating in sport.
However, the Paralympics did not become an annual event until 1948, and it was not until 1964 that they were officially declared the Olympic equivalent. But that is a story for another day. For now, the Paralympics will continue to be held every four years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will look to the future with greater optimism than ever before.