Most of us watching the Olympics on TV every night don'trealize that the Olympic rings and the torch relay did notoriginate in ancient Greece, but became popular after theywere shown in a film created in Nazi Germany.
German writer Tony Perrottet, author of The Naked Olympics,says Hitler wanted to link Nazi Germany to the ideas ofclassical Greece. Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl created themyth that the Olympic rings came from Delphi, a city inancient Greece. Baron Pierre de Coubertain of France,founder of the International Olympic Committee, actuallydesigned the rings in 1913, to symbolize the first fiveOlympic games. Perrottet says, "Leni Riefenstahl just liked(the ring design) as a symbol, and I believe she had itengraved at Delphi for a film shoot. The image stayed therefor years, and people thought it was from ancient Greece!"
She was shooting "Olympia" about the 1936 Berlin OlympicGames. In the same film, she showed the torch relay, whichwas created by a German named Carl Diem. Perrottet says,"There was never any torch relay at the ancient OlympicGames, or anything remotely like it. But what Diem, andGerman classicists who helped him out, did was to draw ontwo other traditions from ancient Greece."
Flames were sacred in Greece, and Greek sanctuaries had"eternal flames" at shrines to Hestia, goddess of thehearth. These flames were used to light the altars.Perrottet says, "So the Germans took these (traditions) andtossed them into the modern Olympics, along with plenty ofpseudo-classical kitsch, like having priestesses chant intunics and using the sun's rays to light the first torch."
Archaeologists working in Greece complain that touristsconstantly ask them where the ancient torch lightingceremony was held. Perrottet says, "It was the most commonquestion, and the archaeologists couldn't keep explaining tothem that the Olympics had no such thing, so they wanted toput up some sort of sign!"
If you're watching the games, you know that the winners arethe ones whotrusttheir vibes.
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