Olympics News: A Look Back When Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams, Magic Johnson Became Torch Bearers for the Prestigious Games

Initiated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics for the first time, the torch-bearing event has been an important tradition in the opening ceremony of the Games. Symbolizing light of spirit, knowledge and life, the sacred flame plays the role of uniting individuals, irrespective of any divisive factors. The Torch Relay starts its journey from the great Greek temples of Olympia and survives a long route to the ultimate Olympic destination, as a symbol of the link between the Ancient and Modern games. And in that tradition is encased the role of a torch-bearer, who is entrusted with transporting the Flame to its rightful destination.

The torch-bearers are selected based on how they brought their communities together through sport. On that virtue, let’s have a look at the individuals who made the torch-bearing occasion exceptional by their presence.

The Olympics torch bearing by the hands of legends

Getting to be a torch-bearer is a huge honor, to say the least. The selected athletes perform their role as a beacon of hope both on and off the field. Till date, there have been over a hundred thousand individuals that have been bestowed with that honor. While we can’t cherry-pick our way through the best representatives, here’s a look at some of the most iconic torch-bearers in recent times.

Nicknamed ‘The Greatest’ and regarded as one of the most iconic sports figures, the boxer had two chances to touch the flame in the Olympics.

Muhammad Ali‘s first chance came in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 36 years after he clinched his first Olympic gold. And, in the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah, the iconic boxer served as an important figure of the torch-bearing relay.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams once made headlines for passing the torch in her tennis career, surely. That was her retirement story in 2022. But in the 2004 Olympics, she literally got to be a torch-bearer.

The prized moment surfaced at Fort Lauderdale in the relay torch-bearing event in 2002. It was just 2 years after her first Olympic slam in Sydney. Ultimately, that slam success continued until the 2016 Summer Olympics, when Serena had to concede defeat in both the single and doubles contests.

Magic Johnson

The 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics witnessed a basketball legend carry the flame.

Magic Johnson was on his toes when he received the chance to carry the torch in Newport Beach. The experience was no less than his greatest NBA shoots of time. But as a player, he touched his Olympic golden glory in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, being a part of the coveted The Dream Team.

Venus Williams

For Venus Williams. her Olympic title came years ahead of her sister, Serena Williams. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she won her first and second Olympic golds. What’s even better is when torch-bearing duties came calling, the veteran got to share the responsibility with her sister Serena Williams.

The 43-year-old tennis legend took the reign of the flame from her sister to carry the relay in that 2002 Salt Lake City edition. However, her appearance in the Games continued for a longer time, until the 2016 Rio Olympics.

David Beckham

The proverbial soccer legend couldn’t let his tuxedo slip while carrying the torch in the 2012 London Olympics.

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park gifted David Beckham one of the most iconic presence in the ceremony. Meanwhile, the same Olympics saw the AC Milan star losing his sole playing chance at the Olympic Games.

 

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