Dean Karnazes Honors His Greek Heritage and Celebrates the Spirit of Global Athletics

Dean Karnazes hands off the torch in global games.Earlier this week, I had the great honor of running a portion of the Olympic Torch Relay in Delphi, Greece, to help deliver the flame to the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PeongChang, Korea on February 9, 2018.

I remember watching the Olympic Games with my father when I was a little boy. At the time, he tried to explain to me that the Olympic Games began in Greece in 776 BC. As a young tike, I had no idea what he was saying. Greece is the home of my forebearers and to this day I feel deeply connected to the land and the people. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve embraced sports as a means of rising above everyday pittances. The Olympic Games is a prime example of using sports to unite rather than divide. In ancient times, it brought together disparate Greek city-states, and the modern Olympic Games serve to unite the globe in a similar way today.

Although San Francisco is my home—and I was honored to carry the Olympic torch through the city preceding the 2008 games—being invited to carry the torch in Delphi was unforgettable. There’s something deeply profound and powerful about running past an outdoor gymnasium that is 3,000-years old. Carrying the Olympic flame through San Francisco was an emotional moment; carrying the Olympic flame through Greece melted my soul.

Dean Karnazes hands off the torch in global games.The long flight and car ride were exhausting, but once I had that torch in my hand with the flame ignited, all of that melted away. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. The Olympic torch itself is quite heavy, but once it graces your palm you feel as though you could carry the weight of the world. It dispels this feeling of great strength, as if there’s no other purpose in life.

The Olympic Torch Relay is more about pageantry than endurance, and the terrain is relatively flat while the pace is moderate. My start was kind of comical: While standing in my torchbearers uniform and waiting to receive the flame from another runner, a group of tourists spotted me and went nuts. I posed for some pictures and was captured in some selfies before starting my leg of the run. To close out my portion of the flame’s journey, I lit a large urn that was mounted to the back of a vehicle headed to Athens for the official handoff to South Korea (which marks 100 days until the start of the Olympic Winter Games).Dean Karnazes hands off the torch in global games.

Although I passed the eternal flame, all of the torchbearers get to keep the actual torch they carry. It’s quite a memento. I have my torch from San Francisco’s 2008 Olympic Games mounted on display in my living room, and I plan to put this one right next to it. Who knows? It could be the start of a bigger collection.

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