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The Olympic flame is a symbol carried over from the ancient Olympics, where a sacred flame burned at the altar of Zeus throughout competition. It was finally reintroduced at the 1924 Amsterdam Games, and again burned in 1932.
Carl Diem, chairman of the organising committee for the 1936 Berlin Games, proposed that the flame be lit in Greece and transported to Berlin via a torch relay. The idea was adopted, and continued at every Olympic Games since 1952.
The flame is lit at the ancient site of Olympia by the natural rays of the sun reflected off a curved mirror. It is lit at a ceremony by women dressed in robes resembling those worn in ancient times, who then pass it to the first relay runner.