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All the neat stuff about the Olympic torch

Douglas Mano/AFP/Getty Images

Every Olympic Games begins with the traditional Olympic Torch Relay. The torch is passed from one torchbearer to the next until it reaches the cauldron at the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Stadium. This year, the opening ceremonies are being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on August 5th - 95 day after the torch was first lit in Greece. Check out some of the other cool facts about the torch:

Torch basics

image of Rio Olympic Games torch open to show the colour bands

Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Each Olympic Games has its own unique torch design and that's no different for Rio 2016. The torch design is very meaningful: the triangular shape represents the three values of the Olympic spirit of excellence, friendship and respect; and when the torch is lit, it expands to show wavy sections that are colour-coded to represent the Brazilian sunlight (gold at the top where the flame is), landscape of mountains and hills (green wave), and surrounding ocean (blue wave). 

Where it all began

1936 Olympic Games in Berlin - lighting the first torch to the cauldron by the Marathon Gate.

1936 Olympic Games in Berlin - lighting the first torch to the cauldron by the Marathon Gate. (Getty Images/ullstein bild)

The Olympic Torch Relay has been going on for 80 years, dating back to the first time one was lit at the Berlin Games in 1936. The torch relay has opened the ceremonies ever since. Prior to the first torch relay, a symbolic fire burned for the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games, but these were not lit in Olympia.

The torchbearers

a torchbearer stands in front of a crowd

Getty Images/Handout

For Rio 2016, the torch is being carried by 12,000 torchbearers and each is covering 200 metres. As the torchbearers make their way across Brazil to the final opening ceremony, 90% of Brazilians will have a chance to see the relay pass through where they live.

It's a long torch route

Brazilian kids holding up signs with the names of cities and towns in Brazil the torch will pass through

Children hold signs with the names of Brazilian cities the torch will pass through. (Getty Images/Christophe Simon/Staff)

Brazil is 8,514,876 square kilometres in size - almost half of the entire continent of South America! The torch passes through 329 cities, towns and villages on its journey throughout Brazil. That’s a lot of ground to cover for the torchbearers!

The "kiss"

two Olympic torches touching to pass on the flame

Getty Images/Marcos De Paula/Stringer

It’s called a "kiss" when two torches meet and one already-lit torch lights the flame of the other. This is the moment when the torch will open up to reveal its colourful sections.

It all goes back to Ancient Greece

a woman lights the Olympic torch at the Temple of Hera in Olympia

Getty Images/Aris Messinis/Stringer

Each torch relay begans in Ancient Greece. OK, not exactly Ancient Greece, but the remains of what was once the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia. The torch is lit in a special ceremony before it begins a short tour of Greece. It's then flown to Switzerland for a quick stop at the Olympic Museum before being flown to Brazil for the long Olympic Torch Relay around the country.

Up in the air: it's a bird... it's a plane... no, it's a torch!

the official aircraft that carries the torch

The Brazilian national flag is seen from the cockpit window of the aircraft transporting the Olympic flame. (Getty Images/Evaristo Sa/Singer)

The Olympic Torch really knows how to travel! Since it has to get from Greece to Switzerland to the official country hosting the Olympic Games, it travels by plane to get there quickly. Once on land, the torchbearers can take over. Overall, the torch will travel 30,000 km: 20,000 km on the ground and 10,000 km in an airplane!

The "mother flame"

the mother flame is kept nearby to relight the torch if needed

Getty Images/Igo Estrela/Stringer

It's true - sometimes the Olympic torch can go out. Although, it's really rare that this happens due to a malfunctioning burner or extreme wind. Just in case, there's always a "mother flame" carried in specially designed miner's lanterns that they can use to relight the torch.