The Olympic flame is a symbol reminiscent of the Ancient Olympic Games, in which a sacred flame burned at the altar of Zeus throughout the Olympic Games. The flame was first used at the modern Olympics in Amsterdam in 1928, and again was lit throughout the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, but this marked the last time the flame was kindled at the site of the Games.
In 1936, Carl Diem, chairman of the organizing committee for the Berlin Olympics, proposed the idea of lighting the flame at Ancient Olympia, and transporting it to Berlin via a torch relay. This was done and has been repeated at every Olympics since.
The flame for the Olympic Games is lit in the altis of the Ancient Olympic stadium at Ancient Olympia, on the Greek Peloponnesus. The flame is lit during a ceremony by women dressed in robes similar to those worn by the ancient Greeks. The flame is lit naturally by the rays of the sun at Olympia, reflected off a curved mirror, and the high priestess then presents the torch to the first relay runner.
The flame for the Olympic Winter Games has not always been lit in Olympia. In 1952 and 1960 the flame for the Olympic Winter Games was lit at the hearth of Sondre Nordheim, the father of modern skiing, at his ancient home in Morgedal, Norway. In 1956 it was lit at the Temple of Jupiter in Rome for the Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Since 1964, the flame for the Olympic Winter Games has also been lit in Ancient Olympia. In 1994, a second, unofficial flame was lit in Morgedal for the Lillehammer Olympics, which greatly upset the Greeks, who claim proprietary rights to the Olympic flame.