It will take more than 10,000 people to carry the Olympic torch to Turin, Italy, for the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics on Feb. 10, and MIT Professor Daniel G. Nocera is one of them.
On Dec. 8, the first day of the torch relay, Nocera, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy and professor of chemistry, carried the torch two miles in Rome starting at 6:15 p.m.
As a runner whose regular route follows the Charles River, the chance to be among the torchbearers was a particular thrill for Nocera.
"Running the torch was certainly a high and different experience. I felt a sense of community and thought about MIT," said Nocera, who ran for Italgas, the Italian energy company and a sponsor of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Italgas chose Nocera after he won the 2004 Italgas Prize for Energy and Environment. "Since I was running as a tribute to energy and research -- these thoughts were apropos."
Although the road was rain-slick and the torch was heavy, the run itself was not difficult, said Nocera, who said he was especially motivated by the children cheering along the route.
As a torchbearer, Nocera has joined an important part of Olympic history. According to the official Olympic web site: "The torchbearer is the person that carries the Olympic flame, the highest recognized symbol of the Games, it announces the message, it embodies and spreads its ideals: the union and peace amongst the people, the allegiance, the courage, the fraternity and solidarity."
The flame dates back to ancient Greece, where athletes competed in a relay race passing a torch from one to the other. In 1928, the flame officially returned to burn in an Olympic stadium. Since 1936, the torch has been carried to the opening ceremony by relay. Now, the Olympic torch relay is an essential part of the Olympic tradition.
The flame, held in a small lantern, arrived in Italy on Dec. 7 from Athens, Greece. Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi lit the torch for the first torchbearer at the Piazza del Quirinale in Rome on Dec. 8. From there, the flame will be carried by 10,001 torchbearers across Italy, visiting 140 cities, all of Italy's regions and Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and France.
The Torino 2006 Olympic torch relay concludes on Feb. 10 in the Stadio Comunale in Turin, when the flame will be used to light the Olympic cauldron at the XX Olympic Winter Games.
The closing ceremony of the Games is scheduled for Feb. 26.