Musicians, actors, sporting legends and even sci-fi characters have help spread the Olympic spirit throughout the years.
After the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch was lit last week, the first two torchbearers, Eleftherios Petrounias and Giovane Gávio, wrote their names into history. WIth many more set to follow over the next few months, rio2016.com takes a look back at some of the most famous torchbearers from previous Games:
1) David Beckham – London 2012
Former footballer David Beckham was a part of the London 2012 torch relay from start to finish. He was a member of the delegation that flew with the Olympic flame from Greece to the United Kingdom, he had his go at being a torchbearer, and he drove the speedboat that took female footballer Jade Bailey as torchbearer to the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium. In the stadium, rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave carried the flame to the seven young people who lit the Olympic cauldron.
2) Wayne Gretzky – Vancouver 2010
Wayne Gretzky is the Pelé of ice hockey, a sport that is to Canada what football is to Brazil. One of Canada’s biggest sports idols, the former player was one of the four final torchbearers at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics alongside Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and Catriona Le May Doan.
3) Tom Cruise – Athens 2004
Actor Tom Cruise was a torchbearer for the Athens 2004 relay. He carried the torch through the stadium of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
4) Magic Johnson – Salt Lake City 2002
Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the players in the all-conquering American “Dream Team” that won gold at the Barcelona 1992 Games. The former basketball player carried the Olympic torch during the relay of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
5) Venus and Serena Williams – Vancouver 2010
The Williams sisters had already landed a gold medal in doubles at the Sydney 2000 Games when they were torchbearers at the Salt Lake City 2002 relay. In the next Summer Games the tennis players continued making history: they won the doubles in both Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and Serena won the singles title at London 2012.
6) Rupert Grint – London 2012
Rupert Grint brought a touch of magic to the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. The actor who played Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series carried the torch on the 68th day of its journey.
7) Paavo Nurmi – Helsinki 1952
Finnish middle and long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn,” is one of the most successful Olympic champions in athletics history, with nine gold and three silver medals collected at the Antwerp 1920, Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928 Games. He had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron in his home country at the Helsinki 1952 Games.
8) Will.i.am – London 2012
Will.i.am from the musical group Black Eyed Peas was a torchbearer on the third day of the relay for the London 2012 Olympic Games. During his stretch in Taunton he wouldn’t let go of his phone for a minute, tweeting about the experience and taking the official Olympic slogan “Inspire a generation” quite literally.
9) Didier Drogba – London 2012
Famous Ivory Coast footballer Didier Drogba also took part in the London 2012 relay. The striker, who at the time was playing for London-based Chelsea, said his only disappointment was that he was not taking part in the Games as a competitor.
10) Michael Johnson – Atlanta 1996 and London 2012
Michael Johnson is one of the few lucky people who can say they participated in two torch relays. The former sprinter first carried the torch at the Atlanta 1996 relay, where he went on win two gold medals, completing his collection of four Olympic golds. At the London 2012 relay he carried the torch around prehistoric monument Stonehenge.
11) Pelé – Athens 2004
“One of my biggest disappointments is that I never competed in the Olympic Games.” Pelé, perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, did not have the chance to help Brazil win a gold medal in football, but he did take part in a historic moment of the Athens 2004 torch relay: he was chosen to carry the torch into the Maracanã. On August 5, the day of the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, it will be the turn of the Rio 2016 torch to enter the stadium.
12) Muhammad Ali – Atlanta 1996
Another great Olympic champion who had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron was Muhammad Ali. Gold medalist at the Rome 1960 Games while still using his birth name, Cassius Clay, the light heavyweight champion was the final torchbearer at the Atlanta 1996 Games.
13) Oscar Schmidt – Athens 2004
Brazilian basketball player Oscar Schmidt, the all-time leading scorer in the history of the sport with 49,737 points, was a torchbearer for the Athens 2004 Olympic torch relay through Rio de Janeiro. Schmidt has five Olympic Games on his CV, from Moscow 1980 to Atlanta 1996.
14) Cathy Freeman – Sydney 2000
Cathy Freeman also had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron – at an edition of the Games where she would be one of the brightest stars. At Sydney 2000 she became the first Aboriginal Australian to be an Olympic champion when she won the 400m race.
15) Patrick Stewart – London 2012
Even Professor X has been an Olympic torchbearer. English actor Patrick Stewart, who played the X-Men’s leader in the movies, was part of the London 2012 relay.
16) Lewis Hamilton – London 2012
Moving slowly is something Lewis Hamilton is not used to, but at the London 2012 torch relay it was necessary to take in the moment. The Formula 1 triple champion was a torchbearer in Luton.
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