I've spent this week with the Olympic Flame as it made its way around Greece. My job? To make sure it didn't go out.
I started working on the Olympic Torch in December 2010. As a design and development engineer within the automotive industry I 've had extensive experience in the testing of engineered products to ensure they can operate robustly within all conditions they might come up against. This includes working in environmental testing, typically conducted in a climatic wind tunnel which can simulate a variety of weather conditions. That experience translated well when it came to making sure the Olympic Flame doesn't go out during the Olympic Torch Relay!
Preparing for all weather
During Christmas 2010 I worked to create a handbook of all the various conditions the Torch would need to stay alight through its 70-day journey around the UK
Working with the London 2012 Organising Committee, I determined the environmental conditions it might come across during the British summer: temperatures from -5 degrees celsius up to 40 degrees, wind, rain, snow...
We also specified the different orientations the Torch might be held at (including at angles for the passing of the Flame between Torchbearers), and how it would cope with being dropped (we've accounted for a drop of three metres – about what it would be from a horse).
Targets set, we developed the burner that will live within the Torch, taking it through thorough tests in the conditions that had been identified. To both develop and prove out the Torch burner design, we spent five days conducting environmental tests at the BMW wind tunnel in Munich, plus many more hours bench-testing within laboratory conditions.
To establish the worst-case Torch drop scenario, a computer model of the Torch was developed to simulate an infinite number of different drop conditions. This proved to be invaluable in reducing the number of physical drop tests that needed to be conducted. The majority of the testing finished in September 2011, with a final drop test in November.
We were confident we'd created a robust Torch. The Relay in Greece has proved it.
The Flame has remained alight throughout – even as it was passed between 11 Torchbearers across the 3km Bridge of Rio in winds of up to 35mph. I was very nervous – that bridge could have been our nemesis – but the Torch passed with flying colours.
A reliable Torch
Members of the Hellenic Organising Committee, who have years of experience of Olympic Torches, have all expressed how impressed they are with the reliability of the London 2012 Torch and the appearance of the Flame. The Turin Torch was our benchmark in terms of reliability and so far ours has matched it, at least.
It's also been well received by the Greek public, who have given us a great welcome as the Torch comes past, coming out to welcome it in great numbers.
It's been a tremendous experience and a great preview of what's to come as the Flame makes its way around the UK. And from what I’ve seen this week, I’m confident it will be alight throughout.
Find out more about the Olympic Torch Relay