It’s an ancient symbol, an icon of the Olympic games. And a little ergonomic forethought might have made the darn thing easier to carry.
Hailed as a masterpiece of design and technology and created by Italy’s top engineers, there’s just one problem with the torch for this year’s Winter Olympics in Turin. Many of the torchbearers say it is just too heavy, The Observer reported earlier this week.
At nearly 2 kilos (4.4lb), runners carrying the aluminum torch in relay across Italy to the opening ceremony say it is difficult to hold aloft for long.
A Burning Pain?
‘Running with it is quite tough,’ said Greek pole vault champion Kostas Filippidis, 19, one of the first torchbearers. ‘I don’t think it’s possible to run even 100 meters with your arm outstretched, and if you bend your arm you risk the flame coming too near your body.’
‘The torch is a bit too heavy and you can’t run as you would like,’ said Italian former boxing champion Nino Benvenuti. ‘I had to keep changing it from arm to arm in order to hold it up.’
The Olympic flame – brought from Athens to Rome on 7 December – is on a two-month journey across Italy in the torch, which resembles the point of a ski. Produced by a team at the renowned Pininfarina design factory in Turin, it weighs 1.97 kilos (4.3lb).
Only two other torches have been heavier – that for the Innsbruck games in 1964 weighed 2.25 kilos (nearly 5lb) and the torch for the London games in 1948 weighed in at 2.15 kilos (4.74lb).
Francesco Lovo, head of the design team, said the torch had to be ‘very robust’ to cope with extremes of weather. ‘We were working to specifications given to us by the Winter Olympics Committee,’ he said. Committee members wanted to avoid problems afflicting the Athens 2004 torch, which weighed 770 grams (under 2lb), and was deemed too fragile.
Lovo denied a report in the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero that the torch was dangerous because runners were forced to hold it too close to their bodies. ‘It’s a real flame, not a flashing light, so of course people have to be careful and hold it at a distance,’ he said.
‘Everything is a trade-off, but we felt it was important to have a torch that was safe, resistant to weather and strong enough to withstand human error, such as someone dropping it. There is no protocol about how it’s carried. You can walk with it, run with it, hold it high or at waist level. It’s up to the individual runners.’
Source: The Observer