BBC Home
Explore the BBC

CBBC

UK

Last Updated: Wednesday June 08 2011 11:12 GMT

Olympic torch for London 2012 is shown off

The torch close up and Lord Coe with the torch

Is this a fancy rounders bat? No, it's the new design of the Olympic torch for the London 2012 Games.

The 80cm torch will be used to light a special cauldron which traditionally signals the start of the Games.

These torches are going to be carried by 8,000 torchbearers over 70 days on a 8,000-mile route before it ends up at the Olympic Stadium on 27 July.

It's may look like gold, but it's made of an aluminium mix used for cars so it's light for the runners to carry.

The torchbearers will be chosen from nominations for "inspirational" people - many of them aged 12-24.

The Olympic torch relay harks back to ancient Greece, when messengers were sent out from Olympia to announce the competition dates and call for a halt to all wars during the Games.

Olympic torch facts
The Olympic flame before the Australian Olympics in 2000
The design changes with each host city
The torch has been into space (1996 and 2000)
It's been to the top of Everest (Beijing 2008)
Beijing 2008 was biggest with 21,800 torchbearers over 137,000km
Until the 1950s only men could carry the torch

The torch relay was started at the 1936 Berlin Games. It's grown in popularity since then and the look of the torch has changed with each Games.

The 2012 Olympic Flame has 8,000 holes - one to represent each torchbearer - and its triangular shape marks the three times that London has staged the Games - 1908, 1948 and 2012.

A special burner is inside each torch and will burn long enough for the torchbearer to cover their distance, about 300m, before passing the flame to the next person's torch.

But don't worry - if the flame accidentally goes out there are special back-up flames from Olympia carried with the relay.