Olympic Games 1980 Moscow

22th Olympiad


Sports: 23            National Teams: 80

Torch and Torch Relay

  The Torch, the Lamp for the Spare Flame, the Ceremonial Cups

The most important feature of the relay was the torch. Work on it was begun in 1978. It was first proposed to use pyrotechnic components as fuel for the torch. However tests had shown that the high burning temperature and the build-up of waste called for great care in the use of the torch. This first proposition was only used in the creation of a variant of the torch which was to be carried around the stadiums (20 of this type were produced). In general it was decided to use liquid gas (a propane-butane mix) as a fuel, for this could guarantee a regular flame and an optimum weight along with complete safety for the runner.

A group of Leningrad engineers under the direction of Boris Tuchin constructed a model torch over a very short period of time. After full testing it was recommended for series production. The torch of the Moscow Olympics, in its construction and its outside appearance, did not resemble its predecessors. Its basic elements comprised a burner section, a ringed cup and protective screen, made from an aluminium alloy, along with the torch handle containing the gas reservoir. (See Fig...) The cup and the screen were golden yellow while the burner section and the handle were of a silvery shade.

torch olympic games 1980 Moscow        torch olympic games 1980 Moscow

Olympic champion Sergei Belov running up to the Bowl

See images

The protective cover carried the official emblem of the Games of the XXII Olympiad while on the burner section was inscribed "Moscow- Olympiad-80".

Dimensions of the torch: length- 565 mm, minimum diameter-27 mm, maximum diameter-100 mm. Weight with full gas reservoir-700 g, burning time-8-10 min. Leningrad enterprises provided the relay with 6,200 torches and the same number of gas reservoirs. The torch was registered as an invention at the State Registry of Inventions of the USSR, inventor's certificate No. 729414 was given the group which had created the torch by the USSR State Committee on Inventions and Discoveries.

In order to guarantee the preservation of the flame lit at Olympia, it was kept in the special lamps. The OCOG- 80 decided not to use a miners lamp for this purpose as the organisers of the previous Games had done. The same group of Leningrad scientists worked on a special lamp for the spare flame. By May 1979 the model had undergone the test successfully. The lamp for the spare flame was of a simple design and trouble-free. It could burn without a break for 48 hours. It was fueled either by kerosene or by liquified gas. During the relay the lamp was carried in a special escort vehicle. The technical means which were used to deliver the Olympic flame to Moscow also included the cups for the ceremonial greeting of the flame along the route of the relay. These cups guaranteed a steady burning of the flame over longer periods of time and were also used for the ritual handing over of the Olympic flame for safekeeping to the place where the relay stayed overnight.

General torch and torch relay information 1980
Description: Moscow logo and legend in red
Material: Alluminum alloy, gray and gold
Fuel: Fluid gas, propane and butane
Torch measure: Lenght:  56 cm      Weight: 700 gr
Torches total: 5,000
Design by: Boris Tutschin
Date of the torch relay: 19. June - 19. July 1980
Duration: 31 days
Numbers of runners: ~ 5,000
Distance total: 4.915 km
Name of the last runner: Sergej Belov

A group of Moscow engineers under the direction of Alexandre Sergeev worked on two variants of the cup-a Small Cup (diameter 240 mm) and a Large Cup (diameter 750 mm). The fuel for both was a mixture based on dry spirit. The Large Cup was collapsible which allowed it to be assembled or taken apart quickly and to be transported over any distance. Around the burner of the Large Cup the words "Olympia-Athens-Sofia- Bucharest-Moscow" were worked in metal. Twelve of the Large Cups were manufactured by Moscow enterprises. Some of these were sent to the NOCs of Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and to the Olympic cities of Tallinn, Leningrad, Kiev and Minsk. The rest were used during the course of the relay. Fifty of the Small Cups were handed over to the republican and region organising committees on the territory of the USSR. 

  The Torch Relay

During the preparation for the relay various routes which had been suggested were looked at, in particular the proposals by National Olympic committees that the Olympic torch should be carried through many of the countries of Europe or, indeed, on a round the world run. This however demanded a considerable expense and a great deal of time. The OCOG- 80 proposed to organise the relay along the shortest possible route. It was proposed to run the relay of the Olympic flame from Greece, through Bulgaria and Romania and from there across the USSR and the decision was confirmed at the 80th Session of the IOC in May 1978. The overall length of the route was 5,000 km including 1,170 on the territory of Greece, 935 in Bulgaria, 593 in Romania and 2,302 in the USSR.

The whole route was divided into 1,000-m stages (some of the stages that ran through towns were slightly shorter). It was planned to take on average 4-5 minutes to cover each kilometre of the route. On some stages through Bulgaria and Romania the organisers of the festive ceremonies proposed to include cyclists and horsemen in the relay. One hundred and thirty-five ceremonies to meet the Olympic flame were planned along the route including 23 in Greece, 44 in Bulgaria, 27 in Romania and 41 in the USSR. In fact, there were 142 ceremonies. The relay was to be run only in the daytime, except for the lap from Olympia to Athens, which according to tradition did not envisage any stopover.

Olympic Torch Relay 1980 Olympia - Moscow
In the space of time from 19.06. - 19.07.1980
Country Date Distance Runners Torches
Greece 19.06. - 25.06.1980 1,170 km    
Bulgaria 25.06. - 01.07.1980 924 km    
Romania 01.07. - 05.07.1980 593 km    
Soviet Union 05.07. - 19.07.1980 2,228 km    
Total:   4,915 km ~ 5,000 ~ 5,000

Preparation for the relay called for close cooperation between the OCOG- 80 and the NOCs of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, with whom relevant agreements were concluded. In 1978-1979, on the initiative of the Organising Committee, local organising committees were formed in the Republics, regions, districts, and towns of the USSR whose territory was crossed by the route of the relay. These committees were to prepare for the relay and assist its passage through their territory. Formed on a voluntary basis through the local Soviets of People's Deputies, these committees were to draw a wide range of enterprises, institutions, collective farms, public organisations and individual citizens into their work. Preparations for the relay were accompanied by publicity about physical culture and sport, which created a new influx of people into sports clubs and groups. New forms of mass competition began to emerge, for example such open athletics matches as "The Olympic Kilometre", "The Olympic Torch",


 "All the family at the start", "Olympians among us". These took place not only in the regions which lay on the route of the relay but in other places too. These competitions were held in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, as well as in the USSR. It is worth noting that many of these sports programmes, which were begun during the period for preparation for the relay of the Olympic flame, have since become regular events. In August-September 1979 a delegation from the OCOG-80 went on a tour with the aim of clarifying the route of the relay and getting to know the features of the road from Olympia to Moscow. Representatives of the NOCs of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania took part in this tour, as did delegates from the organising committees responsible for the relay on its passage through the USSR. Following on from this tour a plan of measures to prepare the route of the relay of the Olympic torch was worked out and its implementation was concluded in May 1980. The whole length of the route was lined with the Olympic emblems, the stages were marked out and signposts were produced showing the distance from Olympia to Moscow. Parking and service areas were prepared for the accompanying column, and hotels were reserved for the escorting groups.

The torch bearers were handpicked by sports and public organisations. The right to carry the Olympic torch was considered to be a great honour. In choosing the runners the basic criteria were the personal sports achievement of the candidate, the ability to complete the 1,000 m distance in no more than five minutes, the contribution which each candidate had made to sports organisations, and medical approval.

(Source document:  Official Report 1980,  Vol. 2, page 262, 264)

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