The Olympic Torch through the ages
With the London 2012 Olympic Torch currently making its way through the UK, we look back at some of torch design highlights in the modern Olympics
1948 London Olympic Torch, designed by Ralph Lavers
Architect Ralph Lavers was selected by the British Olympic Committee to create this design for the famous ‘austerity games’, and worked with the Government’s Fuel Research Station on practical elements (for example making sure the torch would burn for long enough). Lavers said his design was inspired by classical design and architecture. The torch also had to be lightweight enough for runners to carry for 1km each, and the stainless steel design came in at just under 1kg. Lavers’ design was deemed to be so successful that it was reused for the 1956 Games in Melbourne.
1968 Mexico City Olympics Torch, designed by James Metcalfe
The design for the 1968 Olympic Torch was the first to properly incorporate the brand identity for the Games. Torch designer, US sculptor James Metcalfe, adapted the rather cool Mexico City Olympics identity created by his compatriot Lance Wyman. When viewed from the side, Metcalfe’s torch looks a bit like a clunky egg whisk, but when the torch is viewed from above, Wyman’s identity can be seen, encircling the Olympic flame.
1972 Munich Olympic Torch, manufactured by Hagri Kettwig and Krupp
With its Frei Otto/Günther Behnisch stadium and its Otl Aicher graphics, Munich 1972 is seen as the zenith of good Olympic design. The Olympic Torch, developed by German companies Hagri Kettwig and Krupp, fits neatly into this narrative. A minimalist, classic design – almost identical in form to the Tokyo 1964 effort – the torch incorporates Hungarian artist Viktor Vasarely’s Bright Sun Games emblem on its base.
1980 Moscow Olympic Torch, designed by Boris Tutschin
A fittingly bombastic piece of Soviet-era design, Boris Tutschin’s 1980 torch apparently took two years to develop. Tutschin stacked the five Olympic rings on top of each other at the top of the torch and crowned them with a red star (of course). Despite its rather unwieldy look, this was actually one of the lightest Olympic torches ever produced. Made from aluminium it weighed in at just 700 grammes.
1992 Barcelona Olympic Torch, designed by Andre Ricard
Like Munich 1972, the Barcelona 1992 Games are generally considered a ‘designer’ Olympics. The 1992 torch was created by Catalan industrial designer Andre Ricard, to an industrial-looking design (fittingly perhaps given Barcelona’s industrial heritage) using chrome and gold-plated aluminium. The torch is one of several design icons from the Barcelona Games, which notably saw the regeneration of the Monjuic and Barceloneta areas of the city.
2004 Athens Olympic Torch design, by Andreas Varotsos
This space-age design uses an intriguing materials palette of stainless steel, aluminium and olive wood. Industrial designer Andreas Varotsos says the torch design aims to evoke the ‘harmonious shapes and lines of Greece’s sacred olive tree leaves. Varatsos says he also referred back to the ancient Greek adage of pan metron ariston (all things in moderation) to give the torch its structure and simplicity.
2012 London Olympic Torch design, by Barber Osgerby
Currently making its way around the UK, Barber Osgerby’s torch design follows an international tender run by Locog and the Design Council. The gold-coloured torch is perforated by 8000 circles, which represent the 8000 torchbearers who will carry it on its 70-day relay around the UK. When the Games begin on 27 July, the torch will be used to light a Thomas Heatherwick-designed cauldron at the Olympic Stadium. The cauldron design has yet to be unveiled…