The Olympic Torch Runs on Propane

Posted by Sam A

The Olympic flame is one of the oldest and most cherished symbols of the Olympic games. In ancient Greece, the flame represented the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus and the fire stayed lit throughout the Olympic games. This year the Olympic torch is very unique. The torch, created by São Paulo-based design firm Chelles & Hayashi, expands when it touches flame and includes five ribbons of color, stemming from the Brazilian flag: gold, blue, and green.

The modern torch was introduced in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam and the first torch relay was at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games. Since then, the design of the torch has evolved, along with the fuel that powers the symbolic flame. Everything from gunpowder to olive oil was used to fuel the Olympic torch’s flame. More sustainable fuel sources have since been introduced, since the flame was intended to remain lit throughout the journey of the torch relay (which goes through dozens of countries in a wide range of conditions). “The first liquid fuels were introduced at the 1972 Munich games. Torches since that time have carried liquid fuels — they are stored under pressure as a liquid, but burn as a gas to produce a flame. Liquid fuel is safe for the runner and can be stored in a lightweight canister.” (HowStuffWorks)

In 2000, the creators of the Sydney, Australia Olympic torch utilized a mixture of 35 percent propane and 65 percent butane (cigarette lighter fuel), which ignites a strong flame without making a lot of smoke. This was a more lightweight and environmentally friendly option for the torch and safest for the torchbearer to carry. Because the propane/butane mix can be stored as a liquid under relatively light pressure, it can be kept in a lightweight container.

In an effort to have a green Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Torch was fueled entirely by propane because there is no risk of pollution.The 2012 London Olympic Torch was fueled by a mixture of propane and butane. Although it has not been officially reported what fuel source is being used in the 2016 Rio Olympic Torch, we hope they are continuing the trend of using clean-burning propane.

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