How Do They Keep The Olympic Torch Lit? The Rio Olympics Flame Will Have Been Burning For Months

The eternal symbol of the Olympic Flame, which has its origins in the ancient Greek Olympics, will be shinning brightly in the 2016 Rio Olympic games. And after traveling some 12,000 miles, the torch will make its international debut during the opening ceremony on Aug. 5. But just how do they keep the Olympic torch flame burning?

Because it is easier to extinguish the universally recognized flame than one might think, multiple copies of the flame are maintained in backup locations. So if one of the torches should (gasp) go out, it can be re-lit from a backup source. But perhaps even more phenomenal is how the torch is kept sustained from its journey from Olympia, Greece, where the ancient Olympics were held, to its final destination.

In a ceremony held in Olympia, officials hold a breathtaking ceremony in which they light a flame by using a parabolic mirror, fuel-filled torch and the heat created from the sun. The flame is then transported in security lamps to the arena where the games are held. And backup flames are carried as well.

In addition, there are torchbearers who astonishingly carry the flame by foot. This year, 12,000 torch bearers will be carrying the flame for the Olympic Games Torch Relay.

Greek gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias was the first torch bearer for the 2016 torch relay, who then handed it off to Giovane Gavio, a former volleyball player from Brazil. The flame, which is steeped in ancient tradition, was used in Greece to symbolize Prometheus and the mythological flame, and has become a defining feature of the games.

This year, the Olympic Torch was carried for 95 days, passing more than 300 cities and towns. The 2016 Olympic Torch Relay began on April 21. On May 3, the flame, which had been in Switzerland, arrived in Brazil for the long Brazilian section of the Relay before the official Olympic torch is lit on Aug. 5 at the Rio opening ceremony.

There have been some historic moments in which the torch was briefly extinguished, but a lot of detail and planning goes into preventing such an occurrence. For the Rio 2016 Olympics, special precaution has been taken to ensure that any potential protest does not interfere with the flame.