Lot 3075: Grenoble 1968 Winter Olympics Torch
17th January 2019
Excessively rare and historically significant official 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics torch, used by French wrestler Daniel Robin to light the Olympic cauldron during the closing ceremonies in Grenoble's Le Stade de Glace on February 18, 1968. The torch, one of just 33 manufactured by the Société Technique d'Equipement et de Fournitures Industrielle (STEFI), is comprised of a handsome rose-gold bronze alloy with red felt-wrapped grip. It measures 30˝ long, 4˝ at its widest point, and weighs 3.6 lbs. The torch features a long, narrow combustion chamber with a crenelated upper section representing the flame. The sides of the burner head are decorated with two silver plaques featuring the Grenoble emblem designed by Roger Excoffon, depicting the Olympic rings surmounted by a snowflake, and encircled by the text, "Xes Jeux Olympiques d'Hiver, Grenoble 1968"; the third plaque is absent, though some adhesive residue remains. Lit in Olympia, Greece, on December 16, 1967, the Olympic flame traveled over Mount Olympus to Athens, and was then flown to the Paris-Orly airport. The first torchbearer in France was Alain Mimoun, a gold medal-winning distance runner at the 1956 Games in Melbourne and three-time Olympic silver medallist. The final torchbearer was Alain Calmat, who won silver in skating at Innsbruck in 1964. Between the two, over 5,000 torchbearers carried the flame more than 7,000 kilometers through the Jura and Vosges mountains, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and the Alps, with a stop at Chamonix, host of the first-ever Olympic Winter Games in 1924. The penultimate torchbearer was Daniel Robin, a 'golden child' of the Rhône-Alpes region and sole owner of this torch for the past 50 years. A year earlier, Robin had become the first-ever French wrestling world champion in New Delhi, and he was slated to represent France at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, where he would win silver medals in both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. Contrary to popular belief, Daniel Robin did not enter the Olympic Stadium with this official torch on February 6, 1968, the day of the opening ceremony. Fearing that heavy winds and rain would extinguish the flame as it ascended the 96 steps towards the Olympic cauldron, the organizers swapped the official torch with a resin stick that Robin handed to Alain Calmat in the last relay transfer (this handoff can be seen in the full Grenoble 1968 Winter Olympic Film on the Olympic YouTube channel). However, this torch got the spotlight it deserved on the very last day of the Games. On February 18, 1968, Daniel Robin used it to light the Olympic cauldron during the closing ceremonies of the Games in Grenoble's Le Stade de Glace [Ice Stadium], in a moment captured on film by Pathé News. This Olympic flame, the only one to have been lit with the official torch, was the last to go out at the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympic Games, making this specific torch the most significant, rare, and exclusive of the 33 that were produced. Months later, Daniel Robin would go on to win two silver medals at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, in both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, becoming the first wrestler to win two silver medals at the same Games. Combined with his multiple French, European, and World Championship titles, this achievement consolidated his position as one of the greatest—if not the greatest—French wrestlers of all time, and he was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012. While Robin considered his World Championship and Olympic medals to be his greatest achievements in wrestling, he looked upon his role as a Grenoble torchbearer as an enormous source of personal pride. Any Grenoble torch would stand out as one of the rarest and most sought-after Olympic torches ever made, and their desirability has been heightened by the recent 50th anniversary of the Games. The use of this particular torch in the closing ceremonies of the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics doubtlessly makes it the finest example in existence.
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