You have to agree, the image of an Olympic Flame blazing above a running track as athletes from around the world compete for gold is pretty inspiring. This modern addition to the opening of the Olympic Games is known as the Olympic Torch Relay.

How does it work? A small torch is lit from the Olympic Flame and relayed, hand to hand, by torchbearers across the world to the new host nation. The Coca-Cola Company has sponsored it since 1992, helping to spread excitement across the globe. Here’s a quick rundown…

Our first sponsorship of the Relay
The 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games marked the beginning of the International Olympic Torchbearers Programme, sponsored by Coca-Cola. For the first time, people from other nations were invited to carry the Olympic Flame in the host country.

Lighting the way in winter
After this success, we invited participants from 13 countries to carry the Flame across 4,971 miles at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games.

The longest Relay in history
When the Olympic Games visited our home town of Atlanta in 1996, we held the longest Relay, at that time, in the history of the Olympic Games: 15,000 miles.

More than one path
For the 1998 Nagano Olympic Torch Relay in Japan, the Relay followed three separate paths so the experience could be shared between the inhabitants of the country’s many islands.

Our tenth anniversary
We marked our ten-year involvement with the Olympic Torch Relay at Salt Lake in 2002 by selecting more than 3,500 of the total 11,500 torchbearers for a 65-day spectacle that blazed through 46 American states.

The most far-reaching Relay ever
For the first truly worldwide Relay at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, the Olympic Flame travelled internationally to more than 30 cities on the five continents represented by the Olympic Rings. The Flame then returned to Greece, birthplace of the Games.

Promoting active, healthy lifestyles
For the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games, Coca-Cola Italy promoted an anti-obesity project in schools to raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating and exercise, with 412 teachers, students and parents from around the country selected as torchbearers.

The highest points on earth
The Beijing Olympic Torch Relay in 2008 spanned more than four months and touched five continents. The Olympic Flame was carried up and over Mount Everest, in the Himalayas – the highest point on Earth from sea level.

One million torchbearers
More than one million Canadians applied to be a torchbearer at the 2010 Vancouver  Winter Olympic Games. Of those, more than 4,500 were nominated for making commitments to lead more active or green lifestyles.

Best and brightest
For London 2012, we chose 1,300 Future Flames – exceptional young Brits who were chosen to carry the Olympic Torch in recognition of their positive contributions in their local communities. 

Take a look behind the scenes of the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay.