THE JOURNEY OF THE OLYMPIC TORCH

In the latter half of 1956, at a time when the officials of the C.O.N.I. were working out details of the problems to be solved in the four years preceding the Olympic Games, the Olympic Torch Section was also set up. This first stage set the Section in motion for working out specific duties which were:— the organisation of the Olympic Torch relay from Olympia to Rome via Syracuse- Taranto-Naples and Castelgandolfo; the supplying of torches; the constitution of local Committees; the organisation of ceremonies in the various localities passed through; the recruiting of torch-bearers and the kindling, maintenance and extinguishing of the flame during the Games.
Once the operative framework had been established the Section fixed the form the organisation was to take initially by setting up a Committee to which a number of collaborators who had already been engaged in the transport of the Olympic Flame from Rome to Cortina D'Ampezzo in occasion of the Winter Games of 1956 were invited.
Thereafter, with the aim of obtaining the interest and support of various organisations whose co-operation was considered necessary for the work of the Section, a central Committee was formed to which the following were invited:— Mr. Amedeo Maiuri, Superintendent of Antiquities in Campania; Mr. Carlo Chiriachi, representative of the Ministry of the Interior and Mr. Leonilda Turrini from the Ministry of Defence. Mr. Aldo Mairano, President of the International Panathlon Club was Chairman, whilst the Secretary was Mr. Alfredo Maria Langellotti.
On the basis of certain principles drawn up in the organisational field, the Section elaborated a plan of work which in the years 1957-58 led to the selection of the course, the compilation of running schedules and the selection of the type of torch, fuel and the various tripods to be used.
The plan of work for the two-year period 1959-60 included a reconnaissance of the course, the working out and designing of placards at the various hand-over points, the setting up of various executive provincial Committees and Communal Committees, the cooperation of sports Clubs and the Armed Forces for the recruiting of the necessary athletes to compose the relay.
Consequently, during the first months of its activity, the Section paid particular attention to the timing of the running schedules and the compilation of programmes. It established contacts with the Communes, Prefectures, and the Ministry of the Interior for the definition of the various Ceremonies to take place in the different centres along the course.

The choice of the course

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Of the first problems which the Section had to face, the most important was the selection of the itinerary for the journey of the Flame from Olympia to Rome. In view of the time factor and the length of the course involved, it was decided not to adopt the principle of an exclusively overland course which would have led from the Balkan peninsula to Trieste and thence across Italian territory to Rome. It therefore became necessary to adopt an itinerary which would include the crossing of the Ionian Sea to a port on the peninsula but the project of disembarkation at Brindisi, whence the course would have followed State Road No. 7 to Naples and Rome, although appearing more logical, was abandoned in favour of a route considered to be more in line with the spirit of the Games.
In fact, it was also decided to give the itinerary and the observances for the carrying of the Torch that particular classic touch which undoubtedly distinguished the 1960 Games. It was therefore decided to select an itinerary which coincided with and bore reference to the two apexes of classical civilisation, Athens and Rome, and which would pass through the sites of Magna Grecia.
The first part of the journey took place completely in Greek territory, namely:—Olympia, Pyrgos, Patras, Corinth, Megara, Eleusis and Athens. From the Panathinoikon Stadium in the Greek capital, the Flame was conveyed to the port of Turkolimano at Phaleros and thence, by sea, was brought to Italy, at Syracuse, a city founded in 734 B.C. which, like Naxos, may be considered the first Greek colony in Sicily. Following the Sicilian and Calabrian Ionic coast and over to the Tyrhennian coast of the Campania and Lazio regions, the route passed through many of the more famous Greek settlements of Sicily and Magna Grecia:—after Syracuse, Lentini (the ancient city of Leontinoi founded in 829 B.C.), Naxos, Messina, the straits between Scilla and Cariddus, Reggio Calabria, the river Halex (which according to legend sheltered Hercules), Locri (which in 660 B.C. gave Greece and its peoples a complete first Code of written Laws), Crotone, Sibari, Siri, Metaponto and Taranto, the major centre of Magna Grecia. From here, through Matera and Potenza, the Olympic Flame made for ancient Poseidonia on the Tyrhennian sea, Pompei, Herculaneum, Naples and the roads via the Acropolis of Cuma and running beside Lake Averno to Minturno, Terracina and Castelgandolfo. Thus, after so many centuries, the participation of ancient cities in the Olympic Games was ideally renewed, many of which cities had, by their athletes, attained famous victories extolled by poets of ancient times.
The last part of the course was chosen amongst historic sites still vibrant with activity today:—the Appian Way, the Forums, the Capitol, and from the Capitol Hill to the Olympic Stadium.
In a meeting held on 27th May 1958, the Olympic Torch Committee examined a detailed report on the itinerary, the concepts governing its choice and the reasons for selecting Syracuse as the port of disembarkation. This same meeting saw the emergence of a plan for crossing the Straits of Messina and a decision on the prototype of the Torch which was to be different to that used in the London Olympic Games of 1948. Prof. Maiuri was encharged with providing illustrative data on the types of ancient torches so that a final selection could be made.
In July 1958, provincial meetings were first held, at which delegates from the C.O.N.I. were present, with a view to illustrating the operations involved in the Relay and the arrangements to be made in the territories of each province.
The meetings also dealt with the projected composition of the relay.
It was decided to establish contact with the public Authorities for organising the ceremonies which were to take place upon entry into each Province, and the construction of podiums at each hand-over point and the preparation and construction of indicator placards were considered. The programme of training of the young runners selected to make up the relay was also examined.

Reconnaissance of the course

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On 20th September 1958, a meeting of the Committee was held in Naples during which a report was made on an initial reconnaissance held over the whole course, with particular reference to the crossing of the Straits of Messina.
The installation of the tripod at Taranto and other rest points was also examined.
It was decided to inform the Ministry of the Interior of the arrangements being undertaken and to establish contact with local Administrations. The Committee also decided that, when considering arrangements to be made for events on the programme in urban centres and along the course in the provinces special attention should be paid to the floodlighting of points of attraction particularly along the Amalfi coast road where bonfires were to be lit on the heights above Sorrento and Villa Ioni on Cape Tiberius at Capri.
During the first three months of 1959, the whole course and the times for each relay were finalised. However, the itinerary was subject to variations before the moment for the relay actually arrived. A more practical solution was found for the Eboli-Paestum stretch; the reiterated requests by the Nocera area Municipalities for the Torch to pass through their territories were granted and the desire expressed by Caserta Province for the Torch to pass its territory was also met.
Meanwhile, all operations to take place in Greek territory were finalised and the traditional formalities for the kindling of the Flame by means of a burning glass in the Stadium of Olympia at 11.00 hrs. on 12th August 1960 were established.
After a number of contacts established during the first six months of 1959, the Italian Navy very generously offered to concede the Training Ship " Amerigo Vespucci " for the transportation of the Flame from the Greek port of Turkolimano at Phaleros.
At a meeting in April 1959 and others that followed, the Committee established that the sea voyage from Phaleros to Syracuse should not exceed five days, this being due to the fact that the Flame should not reach Syracuse before the night of 18th August while, on the other hand, it could not leave Athens later than the 13th as the Greek Royal Prince and Greek Government Officials had already made arrangements to leave for the Sanctuary of the Island of Tynos on the morning of the 14th. It was therefore absolutely necessary to accept these limiting factors and to arrange for the " Vespucci " to effect a slow voyage circumnavigating the Peloponnese.
The Section set up a executive Committee under the Chairmanship of the Prefect in each Province through which the Relay was due to pass. These Committees were encharged with the promotion and assistance with local initiatives and celebrations.
In order to obtain the necessary number of athletes, the Section organised a call-up of Torch-Bearers in 1959. Special tests for selection were organised.
The athletes selected were used over fractions of 1,500 metres each within the territory of their respective provinces. The time established for each fraction was 5 minutes 15 seconds. Young men, 18 to 23 years of age, of all social classes participated in the selection. To ensure the success of the Torch-Bearer call-up, the co-operation of the Ministry of the Interior, Public Instruction, Defence and the Provincial Committees of the C.O.N.I. was enlisted.
Towards the end of 1959, the Section arrived at a number of decisions which included:—the uniform for the athletes selected to run in the Torch relay (white woollen singlet with the badge of the Games and shorts donated by Snia Viscosa Company and gym shoes); the printing of 3,000 placards indicating the hand-over points of the relay; the adoption of the torch model designed by Prof.
Maiuri and his collaborators from the National Archeological Museum of Naples.

The new model of the torch

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The new model, decidedly classical in line with slim and slightly conical fluting, was built by the firm of Curtisa of Bologna. The torches, placed in appropriate cylindrical boxes, were despatched in rectangular cases containing 6 to 12 models.
In December 1959, the Section and the Olympic Torch Committee faced the problem of the emphasis to be placed on all artistic and historical items existing in each area passed by the relay.
In January 1960, approval was given to the publication of a treatise which not only summarised and illustrated the technical operations throughout the various sections of the course but also described the intimate significance of the XVII Olympiad. In this respect, direct contact was also established with the Italian Touring Club for the production of a work to be entitled " The Olympic Flame from Greece to Rome ".
During this same period, a solution to the problem of transporting the athletes to the various hand-over points of the relay was arrived at and it was decided that the Chairman of the Committee should visit Greece to finalise the arrangements for the Ceremony of handing over the Flame.
On 25th February 1960, the Organising Committee for the Games issued a series of organisational amendments to the Provincial Delegates of the C.O.N.I.
to facilitate the smooth running of the work already established. Amongst other things, a ruling was given on the lay-out of the course, the positioning of placards, the supply of transport for the athletes and the operations for the embarkation and sea voyage of the Torch. Specific indications were given regarding the supply of the ten tripods for Syracuse, Messina, Reggio Calabria, Crotone, Taranto, Potenza, Paestum, Naples, S. Maria Capua Vetere, Castelgandolfo and Rome. Further instructions were issued for the setting up of posters containing various information including details of the exact times of the relay passing the various points.
The itineraries In April 1960, a detailed reconnaissance of the course was made and on May 5th a meeting was held in Salerno of all Provincial Delegates of the C.O.N.I.
for distributing and explaining the itineraries. Matters concerning the nomination of the the athletes for each fraction, lodging requirements and the transportation of material and personnel were also examined at this meeting.
During the month of May tests were made on the radio links with the co-operation of TV technicians who were to effect live television transmissions along the whole of the course of the relay.
In July, a team of collaborators from the Section started to mark off the various fractions of the itinerary with paint lines. Later, a small detachment from the Armed Forces undertook to place the various indicator placards which consisted of plastic boards measuring 40 × 60 cms bearing the emblem of the Games and the number distinguishing the fraction.
In the meanwhile, the C.O.N.I. Delegates and representatives from the Prefectures of the main provincial centres established the arrangements for the ceremonies regarding the handing over of the Torch. This entailed the setting up of appropriate stands for the Authorities whilst final arrangements were made with officials with a view to ensuring public order so that events should not be disturbed because of over-enthusiasm on the part of the public.
Careful arrangements were made with Delegates of the C.O.N.I. for the setting up of local Committees encharged with studying the holding of festivities, positioning the posters, checking the marks indicating hand-over points and attending to the decoration of houses.
The help rendered by the Olympic Military Detachment to this sector of the organisation was of very great value and particularly so during the transfer of the Olympic Flame from the small harbour of Zeas to Rome.
Equally precious was the help afforded in the preparation of the course and the training of 300 military torch-bearers to act as reserves but also capable of covering the 1,500 metre fraction in the required time of 5'15".
The Detachment was also responsible for handling transport arrangements as well as fixed and mobile communication links covering the relay.
On the basis of a plan elaborated by the Detachment in agreement with the Organising Committee for the Games, the Chiefs of Staff of the Defence Ministry decided to empower the Army, in April 1960, to deal with the manpower, materials and transport requirements. In particular, within the framework of the organisation of the course to be followed by the Olympic Torch, the Detachment attended to the distribution and setting up of the indicator placards for each of the fractions making up the course as well as the disposal of such material once it was no longer required.
The O.M.D. decided to entrust the Territorial Military Commands concerned with the task of organisation within their respective territories and, in this respect, such duties were outlined to them in accordance with the plan elaborated by the Organising Committee and the O.M.D.
The representatives from Territorial Commands were requested to effect reconnaissance, supply the transport required and maintain contact with the Provincial Committees of the C.O.N.I. to co-ordinate details of the operation.
At the end of June 1960, meetings were held at the Headquarters of the Olympic Military Detachment in the course of which all requirements were examined and solutions found to the minor problems in connection with the organisation of the itinerary with particular reference to the timing as laid down in the work plan. Transport was not overlooked and arrangements were made to supply sufficient vehicles to transport the torch-bearers from the various assembly centres to the hand-over points of each fraction and to collect those who had completed their distance. For this work, three motorcycles and drivers and twelve drivers for the twelve Fiat cars placed at the disposal of the Organising Committee were laid on.
Transport operations and collection of the torch-bearers along the course was undertaken by the Territorial Military Commands within the territory over which they had jurisdiction in addition to the valuable contribution of personnel and transport made by the Navy, the Air Force, Public Security Police, the Carabinieri, the Finance Police and the Traffic Police. A total of 148 vehicles were used as follows:—56 vehicles from the Military Region Command of Sicily; 76 from the Southern Military Command and 16 from the Central Military Command.
In order to ensure mobile communication links following the relay, the Olympic Military Detachment used 4 radio vans which necessitated the use of 2 officers, 7 warrant officers and 10 transmitting personnel who worked for a total of 5,016 working hours.

From Olympia to Rome

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At 9.30 on the morning of 12th August 1960 the historic ceremony of the kindling of the sacred Flame took place at Olympia. Operations commenced at 9.30 in the Temple of Jupiter. A Greek woman wearing the clothes of an ancient Priestess held a parabolic reflector over the torch and in a few seconds the torch flared.
Before proceeding with the kindling of the flame, the Priestess had said a prayer to Jupiter " that the rays of Phoebus should kindle the sacred torch, whose flame, carried across land and sea to the Stadium of Rome, would enlighten the noble competition of the peaceful Games for all peoples of the earth ".
The Priestess and the vestals wore ash-grey tunics similar to those in use at the time of the priestesses of the Goddess Hera.

On board the « Vespucci »

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As soon as the torch was lit, it was placed in a classical Greek vase and carried in procession to the ancient Temple of Hera. Meanwhile, the vestals performed classical dances whilst the Priestess kindled another torch with the flame in the vase and handed it over to the first runner, Penaghoitis Epitropoulos, an athlete who was later to compete in the Decathlon of the Rome Games.
The Greek athlete received the torch kneeling and immediately started to run in the direction of Athens. The course of 330 kms was undertaken by a relay organised by the Greek Olympic Committee and passed through Pyrgos, Patras, Corinth, Megara and Eleusis.  At 21.00 hrs on the 13th August, the Flame was handed over by H.R.H.
Prince Constantine of Greece in the course of a picturesque ceremony to Mr.
Piero Oneglio, Vice-President of the C.O.N.I. and representative of the Organising Committee. He, in turn, handed it over to Mr. Aldo Mairano, President of the Olympic Torch Committee who then passed the symbolic Flame to a cadet of the Italian Navy who boarded a Greek whale-boat and crossed over to the harbour of Zeas near Piraeus and brought it aboard the training-ship " Amerigo Vespucci ". At 20.30 hrs on 18th August, the Flame was disembarked at Syracuse and received by the President of the Sicilian Region not far from Fonte Aretusa. From Syracuse, the Relay followed the same course as that followed by the ancient Greeks during the period when they founded their colonies and through those parts whose former prosperity earned them the name of Magna Grecia.
The itinerary covered 1,532.800 kms in all. The course was divided up into 1,199 fractions, most of them 1,500 metres long, to be covered in a time of 5 mins. 30 secs. Exception was made in the case of uphill stretches where the distance was cut down to 1,000 metres to be run in the same time. (Table No. 3).
The torch-bearers were recruited from amongst the members of sports clubs and schools in the fifteen provinces the Relay passed through. The selection was made after strict training on tracks and roads, particular attention being paid to the selection of those who were to run through towns.
All the fractions were covered in the established time.
The handing over of the Flame was effected by applying torch to torch, to the accompaniment of great popular enthusiasm which this race aroused.
In places where special ceremonies were to be held, namely, Syracuse, Messina (where the Straits were crossed aboard characteristic Messina craft and accompanied by practically the whole of the shipping from that city), Reggio Calabria, Metaponto and Castelgandolfo, use was made of tripods burning fuel lit by the Olympic Torch. Other tripods were used at those points where the Torch remained overnight, i.e. Crotone, Taranto, Potenza, Paestum, S. Maria Capua Vetere, these being closely guarded by young athletes and surrounded by crowds of local townspeople increasing in numbers as day dawned.
All the centres along the course witnessed scenes of great enthusiasm on the part of the population as a result of the initiatives taken by the Authorities and sports officials. Colourful spectacular scenes of festivity were the rule at the passage of the Torch. Everywhere flowers, fireworks, the ringing of church bells and thousands of young people wearing the traditional five coloured rings greeted the Flame. Large panels illustrating the various sports, special lighting and a panoply of flags provided exceptional spectacle value doing full justice to the spiritual significance of this event.
The organisation for the Province of Rome was encharged to Lt. Col.
Francesco Andreotti of the Metropolitan Police Corps.
The Olympic Torch entered into the territory of the province at the 48.34 kilometre mark along the Via Appia Nuova on 24th August at 17.12 hrs and was taken into custody by the Prefect, who then handed it over to the first torch-bearer of the province. The successive hand-overs in front of the Municipalities of the various Communes took place at the following times:— Velletri, 17.43" hrs; Genzano, 18.32'30" hrs; Ariccia, 18.43'15" hrs; Albano 18.5312 " hrs; Castelgandolfo, 19.03' hrs and Rome (Capitol) at 21.00' hrs.
Upon arrival at the Capitol, the last athlete of the Relay greeted the crowd, raising the Torch in their direction, and then proceeded to light the tripod which was kept alight until the next day. Thus the great relay came to an end to the sound of a fanfare by the Followers of Vitorchiano. Here the people of Rome enjoyed one of the most colourful ceremonies. Within the framework of the Michelangelo Palaces on the Capitol where Rome in the person of Tarquinius the Proud raised the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus Capitolinus, the Sacred Flame burned throughout the night, whilst the Olympic Flag fluttered on the Capitol tower.
The following day, in the presence of the Mayor of the City and numerous representatives from the Government, the Armed Forces and the Organising Committee, the relay took up its course once more and, crossing Rome via the Corso and the Via Flaminia, reached the Olympic Stadium at 17.30 hrs as the Opening Ceremony was taking place.