Twin Citian Amy Hyatt-Blat, who works here at MPR, has a unique perspective on the Olympic torch relay that’s become the focus of demonstrations against China and its human rights violations. That’s her above, getting the torch for her part of the relay in Australia for the 2000 Olympics. She not only got to run a few blocks as part of the relay, she was one of the people in charge of setting it up, working on the advance team that accompanied the torch on its run to the Sydney Olympics. The logistics were massive with over 12,000 runners involved.
But let’s get to the juicy “secrets” of the flame: The flame never goes out. Despite the international gasp when it was reported the flame was extinguished in Paris, there’s more than one flame. In fact, there are three other flames in a van that accompanies the relay. If the torch goes out, it’s relit from one of the flames. The flames — which are kept lit in ornate containers — are known to the organizers as “the kids.” As in, “who’s watching the kids?” The kids stay in a hotel room. There’s a special “flame plane.” There are four or five “secret flames” kept in various locations around the world. Each torch that is used as the flame is handed from torch to torch, has a gas cannister that fuels the flame for only 12 minutes. You’ve got 12 minutes to get the flame, burning in your torch, to the next torch. Every runner gets to keep the torch, but only if they pay for it. It’ll cost them about $300, and officials remove the fuel cannister and make sure the torch can’t be used again. That’s why you never see the Olympic torch at your “Neighborhood Night Out” party. Organizers have open spots for torchbearers. In case some runner misses his/her assigned time/location, he or she can use an “empty” slot later on the schedule. If there’s an open spot that hasn’t been filled, organizers like Amy get to run it. She ran it through a section of Tasmania.
The flame has left the U.S., after its trip through San Francisco on a route that officials changed at the last minute to keep it away from protesters. It’s now in South America.
About the blogger
Bob Collins has been with Minnesota Public Radio since 1992, emigrating to Minnesota from Massachusetts where he was vice president of programming for Berkshire Broadcasting Company. Previously, he was an editor at the RKO Radio network in New York, and WHDH Radio in Boston. He was the founder of MPR News’ website.