Olympic Flame Ignites in Greece, Honoring Father of Modern Games, Before Journey to Paris


In the inky silence of a Grecian night, hinted by the gentle hoots of owls, rests the heart of a man who imagined a sporting event that would unite the world. The heart is encased in a radiant white marble monument just beyond the ruins of the ancient Olympic Games. It belongs to a singular Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, considered the cornerstone of the modern Olympics.

Coubertin led the International Olympic Committee when Paris last hosted the Games a century ago. Come Tuesday, the flame that will glow through the forthcoming Olympics in Paris will be ignited amidst the relics of Olympia, a place steeped in ancient sport’s history located in southern Greece. This event will mark the third time the French capital hosts the global sports event, the flame serving to ignite the spirit of the games while honoring the contributions of its dedicated advocate.

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Legends whisper the 5th-century BC tales of the temple of Zeus, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, standing tall and majestic under the stars. Such splendor only permitted to be observed by the grace of the Culture Ministry, whose consent allows the capture of night-time imagery of this hallowed site.

The flame, symbol of purity and the endeavor for perfection, will begin its journey towards the Paris Olympics by honoring Coubertin’s memory at his cypress-ringed memorial here in Greece. The torchbearer will ignite an altar in his honor, continuing a tradition that holds sway in every flame-lighting ceremony.

“But this year is special,” states Spyros Capralos, overseer of the Greek national Olympic Committee. He speaks of respect and reverence to Coubertin’s monument, requested each time they pass the flame. The connection deepening this year, as the Games prepare for their grand return to Paris, the birthplace of Coubertin himself, some 2,800 years after Olympia first played host.

Coubertin, a French nobleman, bore inspiration from these ancient games that, combined with a desire to spark a resilient modern sports culture, saw the inaugural modern Games come to life in Athens in 1896. The renovated ancient marble stadium in the Greek capital still houses the ‘Coubertin seat,’ a lasting tribute to the man, his name etched for perpetuity.

Upon his death in 1937, Coubertin’s mortal remains were interred in Lausanne, Switzerland. Still, his heart, in line with his special whims, found a resting place within a monument erected a decade earlier to celebrate his life, located fittingly, near the fabled ruins of ancient Olympia.

A testament to his legacy, this monument, carved into the idyllic landscape, has now become an integral part of the International Olympic Academy. An institution founded in the pursuit of education about the history and principles that form the bedrock of the modern Games.

A life consumed by dedication to his Olympic passion, Coubertin was second to assume the role of IOC president in 1896, after Greece’s Demetrios Vikelas. Despite personal tragedies marring his journey, including the health struggles of his own children and the wartime death of two nephews, Coubertin continued to serve till 1925. His tenure witnessed the Games returning to Paris twice – in 1900 and 1924.

As the lights once again turn towards Paris this summer, the flame’s glow will carry forth Coubertin’s legacy, rekindling the spirit of unity, competition, and global camaraderie envisioned by this exceptional Frenchman at the birthplace of the Olympic Games.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.