Who Else Has Lit the Olympic Cauldron?

The cauldron at the Winter Games opening ceremony.
The cauldron at the Winter Games opening ceremony.
Lintao Zhang, Getty Images

The Vancouver Organizing Committee has managed to keep the identity of the person who will light the Olympic cauldron during today's opening ceremonies under wraps. Many have speculated that Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky will run the final leg of the Olympic Torch Relay, a tradition that dates to the 1936 Summer Games and begins with the lighting of the torch in the months before the Olympics in Olympia, Greece.

Others predict that Betty Fox, the mother of the late Terry Fox, the one-legged humanitarian who ran more than 3,000 miles across his native Canada in 1980 to raise money for cancer research, will light the flame that symbolizes the theft of fire from Zeus by Prometheus. Whoever emerges with the torch from the tunnel at BC Place Stadium will join a select group of Olympic greats, schoolchildren, and even royalty, who have lit the Olympic cauldron at past Winter Games.

Oslo, 1952

The Olympic flame has been part of the modern Olympic Games since the 1928 Summer Olympics, but the lighting ceremony wasn't introduced at the Winter Olympics until 1952. Norwegian Eigil Nansen, the grandson of polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, lit the Olympic flame that year. Fridtjof Nansen was the first man to cross Greenland on skis.

Cortina d'Ampezzo, 1956

1956-torch

During the lighting ceremony, Italian speed skater Guido Caroli tripped over a loose public address system wire as he carried the Olympic flame around the main rink for the 1956 Winter Games. Caroli didn't see the wire because he was looking toward the Presidential box, but he regained his balance in time to avoid an embarrassing fall. "I didn't let the flame go out," he later said. "Remember that I didn't let the flame go out."

Squaw Valley, 1960

Andrea Mead Lawrence, a retired Olympic skiing champion, delivered the torch to American speed skater and defending gold medalist in the 500m, Ken Henry, who lit the Olympic flame at the base of the Tower of Nations.

Innsbruck, 1964

Josef Rieder, an Austrian alpine skier, lit the Olympic flame in 1964.

Grenoble, 1968

Alain Calmat, who became a surgeon after his figure skating career was over, won the silver medal at the 1964 Olympics and had the honor of lighting the Olympic flame in his native France.

Sapporo, 1972

1972-torch

Hideki Takada, a 16-year-old Sapporo high school student, was the final torchbearer at the 1972 Winter Games.

Innsbruck, 1976

To remember the 1964 Games held in Innsbruck and usher in the start of the 1976 Games, two flames were lit simultaneously by a pair of Austrian Olympic champions: Josef Feistmantl (luge) and Christl Haas (skiing).

Lake Placid, 1980

Dr. Charles Morgan Kerr, a psychiatrist from Tucson, Ariz., was one of 52 runners who carried the Olympic torch to Lake Placid from Virginia, where it had arrived from Greece. The 51 other relay runners elected Kerr to light the torch at the opening ceremonies.

Sarajevo, 1984

Yugoslavia's top female figure skater, 21-year-old Sanda Dubravcic, lit the Olympic flame in Sarajevo after 1,600 other torchbearers participated in the Olympic torch relay.

Calgary, 1988

Seventh-grader Robyn Perry, the last of 6,250 Canadians to carry the torch before the 1988 Games, stood on her tiptoes to light the flame at the opening ceremonies. Perry, 12, a talented figure skater, was randomly selected from a group of eight other students as a symbol of youth. The Montreal Gazette caught up with Perry, who now goes by Robyn Ainsworth, last year. "It shaped who I was," said Ainsworth, who is the director of We Care Home Health Services in Calgary. "I got so many life experiences out of it that I don't think I could separate it out from who I now am. It definitely impacted my life."

Albertville, 1992

At least one French journalist described the Albertville organizing committee's decision to have French soccer star Michel Platini run the final leg of the Olympic torch relay as "très bizarre." Platini handed the torch to Francois-Cyrille Grange, a young boy from the Savoie region, who lit the flame.

Lillehammer, 1994

1994-torch

Former Norwegian ski flying champion Ole Gunnar Fidjestol was scheduled to soar into the ski jumping arena carrying the Olympic torch for the opening ceremonies, but was hospitalized after suffering a sprained neck and a mild concussion in a crash during a trial run. "This was not my worst fall, but it was my most embarrassing," said Fidjestol, one of the all-time greats in a sport that differs slightly from ski jumping in that ski fliers take off from a higher plane and soar farther than ski jumpers. Stein Gruben, who had been practicing the jump as Fidjestol's understudy, stepped in and landed the jump perfectly. Gruben handed the torch to blind cross-country skier Catherine Nottingnes, who handed it to Crown Prince Haakon, who lit the flame. Haakon's father and grandfather were former Olympians.

Nagano, 1998

Japanese figure skater Midori Ito, who won a silver medal in Albertville and the 1989 world figure skating championship, lit the flame.

Salt Lake City, 2002

The U.S. hockey team that upset the Soviet Union to win the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics lit the flame at the end of an inspirational torch relay that featured both Lance Armstrong and Christopher Reeve. Wearing USA hockey jerseys, 1980 U.S. captain Mike Eruzione and his teammates lit the Olympic cauldron after accepting the torch from U.S. skier Picabo Street and 2002 U.S. women's hockey captain Cammi Granato. "I think this is probably the final journey," Eruzione said afterward. "It's hard to imagine yourself being an Olympic athlete and winning a gold medal, then 22 years go by and you carry the torch and light the Olympic flame."

Turin, 2006

Stefania Belmondo, an Italian cross-country skier who won gold in Salt Lake City, lit the flame in Turin.

Which Fictional Character Are You? This Online Quiz Might Give You an Eerily Accurate Answer

Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister is the unofficial king of witty side comments. Are you, too?
Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister is the unofficial king of witty side comments. Are you, too?
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

While watching a TV show or movie, you might find yourself trying to draw parallels between you and a certain character you’d want to be. If you’re like many viewers, it’s probably one of the heroic ones—the handsome private investigator with a tortured past and an unerring moral compass or the fearless queen who builds her kingdom from nothing and defends it to the death, etc.

But which character would you actually be? Openpsychometrics.org, a site that develops personality tests, has a new online quiz that might give you an uncannily accurate answer. You’ll be confronted with a series of 28 questions that ask you to pinpoint where you fall between two traits on a percentage-based spectrum. For example, if you’re more playful than serious, slide the bar toward the word playful until you’ve reached your desired ratio. The ratio could be anything from 51 percent playful and 49 percent serious, to a full 100 percent playful and not a single iota of seriousness at all. Other spectrums include artistic versus scientific, dominant versus submissive, spiritual versus skeptical, and more.

Once you’ve completed the quiz, you’ll find out which fictional character your personality most closely matches from a database of around 500 television and film characters. To pinpoint the personalities of the characters themselves, the quiz creators asked survey participants to rate them on a series of traits, and those collective results are then compared to your own self-ratings.

If you scroll down below your top result, you’ll see an option to show your full match list, which will give you a much more comprehensive picture of what kind of character you’d be. My top two results—which, ironically, were the same as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy’s—were The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg and Joey Lucas, suggesting that we both have a no-nonsense attitude, a perfectionist streak, and an apparent aptitude for national politics that (at least in our cases) will likely go unfulfilled.

The fictional twin of managing editor Jenn Wood, on the other hand, is Game of Thrones’s Tyrion Lannister, unofficial king of witty side comments and all-around fan favorite. This was not surprising. As runner-up, Jenn got her personal hero, Elizabeth Bennet, which, in her words “makes me feel better about myself.” (Jenn has Pride and Prejudice-themed “writing gloves,” which seems important to mention.)

Take the quiz here to find out just how much you have in common with your own personal (fictional) hero.

10 Citizen Science Projects That Need Your Help

A citizen scientist takes a photo of scarlet mushrooms.
A citizen scientist takes a photo of scarlet mushrooms.
lovelypeace/iStock via Getty Images

Channel your inner Nikola Tesla or Marie Curie by participating in actual scientific research, either out and about or without even leaving your couch. These projects unleash the power of the public to be places that researchers can’t be and to spread the workload when data start piling up. They really can’t do it without you.

1. Catalog photos of Earth's cities at night.

Photo from space of a city at night
Identify cities from the photos taken from the International Space Station.
Chris Hadfield, NASA // Public Domain

Cities at Night—a study by Complutense University of Madrid—asks people to catalog images of the Earth at night taken from the International Space Station, part of the millions of images in the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth database. The current project, Lost at Night, needs people to identify cities within images of 310-mile circles on Earth. Hundreds of volunteers have classified thousands of images already, but classification by multiple individuals ensures greater accuracy. In fact, the project will determine the optimum number of people needed. The primary goal is an open atlas of publicly available nighttime images. Just log on to the image database to help.

2. Follow fish using high-tech tags.

You’ll have to go fishing—an outdoor activity you can do by yourself!—for this assignment. Volunteer to tag fish for the American Littoral Society, whose citizen scientists have tagged more than 640,000 fish since the program began in 1965. You can tag the fish you catch and release, or report tagged fish to the organization. The data is sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where it helps scientists track the populations and movements of coastal species like striped bass, flounder, and bluefish. To get started, become a member of the American Littoral Society, which comes with a packet of tagging gear and instructions.

3. Spy on penguins in Antarctica.

Penguins on an ice floe
Keeping tabs on penguins is one way a citizen scientist can lend a hand.
axily/iStock via Getty Images

Here's another project for those stuck indoors. Penguins are threatened by climate change, fisheries, and direct human disturbance, yet scientists have little data on the birds. To fill in the gaps, 50 cameras throughout the Southern Ocean and Antarctic Peninsula take images of colonies of gentoo, chinstrap, Adélie, and king penguins year-round. You can help the University of Oxford-based research team by sorting through thousands of images to identify and mark individual adult penguins, chicks, and eggs. You'll be pinpointing seasonal and geographic variations in populations that may represent changes to the Antarctic ecosystem. Marking other animals in the images helps researchers figure out which ones are hanging around penguin colonies. Discuss a specific image or the project with the science team and other volunteers in an online forum.

4. Battle an invasive marine species.

Like to dive or snorkel? Make it count by reporting lionfish sightings or captures to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation's Volunteer Reef Survey Project. Lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific, were first sighted in the South Atlantic in 1985 and were likely released by private aquarium owners. Since then, they have spread throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and caused native fish populations to decline by up to 80 percent. Scientists say this invasion may be one of the century’s greatest threats to warm temperate and tropical Atlantic reefs. You can also join a lionfish derby to catch and kill some of the tasty fish so scientists can analyze their biology.

5. Count birds from your backyard.

Bluebirds at a bird feeder
Bluebirds dine on mealworms at a bird feeder.
MelodyanneM/iStock via Getty Images

North American birds are in trouble. Recent studies predict dramatic declines in the populations of migratory birds due to climate change—and much of the data that went into these studies came from citizen scientists who monitored species without leaving home. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada launches Project FeederWatch in the winter months; you simply put out a bird feeder and report the number and species of birds that visit it. Citizen scientists can also join the Cornell Lab's NestWatch—you find a nest, monitor it every three or four days, and report your data. And every February, the Audubon Society runs the Great Backyard Bird Count, in which participants submit data to produce a real-time snapshot of bird populations across North America. Any time of the year, birdwatchers can submit lists of the birds they see on eBird, a huge database of sightings that informs public policy, conservation efforts, and other initiatives.

6. Photograph plants for climate change research.

The Appalachian Mountain Club's Mountain Watch program asks hikers to document alpine and forest plants for ecological research. By taking photos of flowers and fruiting plants along woodland trails and uploading them to the iNaturalist app, participants provide data about the times and places that plants bloom. Scientists then compile the information in an online database and analyze it for trends that could indicate changing climates.

7. Comb through ships' logbooks for weather data.

Old handwritten letters
Practice your handwriting-deciphering skills on the Old Weather project.
scisettialfio/iStock via Getty Images

Ships’ logs from mid-19th century American sailing vessels contain detailed weather observations. Citizen scientists can help transcribe observations from whaling vessels for the Old Weather project; scientists will use the information to learn more about past environmental conditions and create better climate models for future projections. Historians will also use the data to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board.

8. Make American history documents and science notes accessible to more people.

The Smithsonian Libraries are stuffed with original history and science documents that have lain in drawers for decades. Help open up "America's attic" to the public by organizing and transcribing digital versions of handwritten field notebooks, diaries, logbooks, specimen labels, photo albums, and other materials. You'll join thousands of other volunteers to investigate documents like the Sally K. Ride Papers, the collection of the Freedmen's Bureau (which helped former slaves following the Civil War), and field studies of insects by the Irish naturalist Arthur Stelfox.

9. Investigate historical crimes in Australia.

Drawing of a convict ship to Australia
A drawing of a 19th-century convict ship destined for Australia.
Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

If you're obsessed with true crime, you'll love this project. Volunteer to investigate and transcribe criminal records from 19th- and 20th-century Australia, which was founded as a British penal colony. Alana Piper, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney, will use the transcriptions to construct the "life histories and offending patterns of Australian criminals" from the 1850s to the 1940s. More than 40,000 subjects have been completed so far.

10. Map the unique features of Mars's South Pole.

Travel to Mars—without the hassle of zero gravity or space-vegetable farming—through Planet Four, a citizen science project that is currently tasked with identifying features on Mars's dynamic South Pole. Volunteers examine photos from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconaissance Orbiter and pick out "fans" or "blotches" in the landscape of seasonal carbon dioxide ice. Scientists believe these structures indicate wind speed and direction on the Martian surface and offers clues about the evolution of the Red Planet's climate.

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