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The torch that lights the way.

Louisville Slugger takes a swing at making Olympic torches.

In ancient Greece, a truce was called so the Olympic Games could take place. Runners - called "heralds of peace" traveled Greece proclaiming the beginning of the truce. In reviving the custom for the 1936 Olympic Games, organizers incorporated a torch lit in Olympia by the rays of the sun to connect the Games' ancient heritage with the modern Olympics.

Sixty years later, the 1996 Olympic torch, only the third in history to use wood, will once again begin its journey in Olympia with a traditional ceremony during which a parabolic mirror is used to light the torch with the rays of the sun.

After the torch lighting and relay through Greece, the torch flame arrives in Los Angeles on April 27. Over the course of 84 days, 10,000 individuals carrying 10,000 torches will carry the torch flame on a 15,000-mile journey to Atlanta. The flame will end its journey on July 19, during the Opening Ceremony when the Olympic Cauldron will be lit.

"Essentially, there is a new torch for every Olympiad," according to Dori Wofford, ACOG program manager for the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. "Ours was designed by Peter Mastrogiannis, a Greek-American, who has designed a very symbolic torch since the 1996 Games are the Centennial Games, celebrating the anniversary of the modern Olympics. Our torch is made of 22 aluminum reeds, each of which symbolizes one of the Olympic Games. We have a center handle that is made of Georgia pecan wood. Also, at the top and bottom, there are two gold rings. One lists each host city of the 22 Olympic Games, and the bottom ring has the Quilt of Leaves which is the motif for the Centennial Olympic Games," Wofford said.

ACOG, through the Georgia Forestry Commission in Macon, Ga., contacted landowners to have Georgia hardwood donated. "We worked with a number of different farmers in Georgia to get pecan wood, and these trees had all either been felled by storms or were designated for cutting down, regardless. It ended up being more than 80 tons of wood. The wood was cut this summer, dried, kilned, and then sent to Louisville Slugger in Kentucky, where they will turn the handles," Wofford said.

Beginning in late November of 1995, Louisville Slugger, the famed manufacturer of Louisville Slugger baseball equipment, Louisville Hockey sticks and PowerBilt golf clubs, began receiving 20-inch by 3-inch square blanks of Georgia pecan wood.

A Samco drill press was used by Louisville Slugger to make the way for the dual burner system - a first - that will help the flame resist wind and rain. A small tank will exist in the aluminum base of the torch for propane fuel, allowing the flame to burn for 30-40 minutes per torch.

"We put the blanks on a (semi-automatic) lathe and turned them down into three handles, connected. We then separated the handles by cutting them apart, and drilled a hole all the way through each one so that the fuel line could run through it," according to Bill Williams, vice president of public relations for Louisville Slugger's parent company, Hillerich & Bradsby. "Then we have a machine that put little notches into it where it connects with the (aluminum ends). Then they were sanded, sprayed and shipped to Erie, Pa., for assembly," Williams said.

A Behr stain along with a clear polyurethane finish is sprayed onto the handles.

Once the aluminum ends are attached, the torch will stand 32 inches tall, the tallest ever for a Summer Olympic Games. Its diameter will range from 2.25 inches at the bottom to 3.5 inches at the top, and it will weigh just under 4 pounds.
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Title Annotation:1996 Olympic torch
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Mar 1, 1996
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