In 1976, the city of Montreal hosted the 21st Summer Olympics. As in previous Games, an iconic Olympic torch had to be designed for the occasion, symbolizing the link between the ancient games and the modern games, but also representative of the host city’s creative spirit.
Apart from the reference to the Games’ Greek origin, the choice of olive oil as a fuel meant that an orange flame could be produced, which was much softer and more photogenic than the blue flame from the butane gas used in Munich four years earlier. However, olive oil was not volatile enough for one torch to ignite the next during the relay. Thanks to a collaboration between the designer and chemical engineers at the École polytechnique de Montréal, the oil was “doped” with nitropropane and heptane, yielding a fuel that would produce the desired effect.
The 1976 Olympic torch was innovative in several respects. Technically, it consisted of a red aluminium handle and a perforated burner in machined aluminium that was designed in a wind tunnel and finished with a black silicone paint specially developed in the laboratory to withstand heat of 850° F. In terms of the concept, its simple lines were reminiscent of ancient Greece and its softwood torches adorned with a twist of foliage, soaked in paraffin. Two thousand units were produced for the 1976 Games. In 2015, during the inauguration of the Olympic House in Montreal, a 24K gold-plated copy of the official torch was presented to Thomas Bach, recently elected President of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee.
Régies des installations olympiques (RIO) de Montréal