In the intricate dance of craftsmanship and industry, the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be illuminated by torches with a unique origin story. A mere four cars from the scrapyard or the steel extracted from approximately 50 washing machines form the raw materials for the creation of the 2,000 torches required for the upcoming global spectacle. However, this seemingly straightforward process involves a specialized savoir faire that combines technological precision and artisanal skill.
ArcelorMittal, a prominent manufacturing corporation and an official partner of Paris 2024, played a pivotal role in the torch manufacturing process. Six tons of steel, repurposed from discarded automobiles and household appliances, were meticulously melted and shaped into 0.7-millimeter plates. These plates found their way to the Normandy factory of Guy Degrenne, a renowned French silverware and cutlery company.
At Guy Degrenne's facility, the steel plates underwent a metamorphosis through laser-cutting, welding, and assembly, orchestrated by a dedicated team of craftsmen. The torches, each akin to a slender piece of art, boast a distinctive wavy touch symbolizing the vastness of the Mediterranean Sea and the oceans that will carry the Olympic flame from Greece and French overseas territories.
Delphine Moulin, Paris 2024's Director of Celebration, likened the torch to a cherished creation, stating, "It's a bit like my baby, our baby." Against the backdrop of the factory's symphony of metal being cut, bent, polished, and sprayed with micro-particles of steel, the torches took shape over a meticulous nine-month period.
The end result is a torch that stands at 70 centimeters in height, weighing 1.5 kilograms. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the torch is designed to be water and windproof, capable of withstanding sustained winds of 20 kph and gusts reaching 60 kph. A three-meter fall, simulated in a crash test, attested to the torch's resilience.
Franck Wasilewski, the project manager at ArcelorMittal, emphasized the attention to detail required for such a unique project. "It requires so much attention to details, first to make the perfect steel. You don't use the same kind of steel to make rails and to make this torch," added Eric Niedziela, President of ArcelorMittal France.
The torch's symbolism extends beyond its appearance and functionality. The Olympic flame, carried by 1,500 torchbearers during the Olympic relay and an additional 500 for the Paralympics' relay, will traverse the hands of almost 10 different individuals. This not only serves as a testament to unity but also underscores the torch's sustainability.
Paris 2024 officials and ArcelorMittal have chosen to remain discreet about the budget allocated for the torches' fabrication, leaving the overall cost shrouded in secrecy. However, what is clear is the pride both entities take in the creation of a French product, crafted in collaboration with Guy Degrenne, whose savoir faire is deemed unparalleled.
As the flame prepares to be kindled in Ancient Olympia on April 16, embarking on a journey that will weave through Greece before culminating in the heart of Paris, the torches stand not just as carriers of fire but as symbols of innovation, craftsmanship, and the collective spirit that defines the Olympic Games. Come July 26, when the Games commence, these torches will cast their radiant glow over a celebration of human achievement and unity.