Photos: All the Celebrity Olympic Torch Bearers Over the Years
From Muhammad Ali to Prince William and Kate Middleton, see which stars have taken part in the tradition
History of the Olympic Torch Relay
The Olympic Flame is a symbol of continuity between the ancient and modern games. It has been lit in a ceremony in Olympia, Greece, ahead of every Games since Berlin 1936, when the Olympic Torch Relay first began, according to Olympic.org. The relay, inspired by the torch races of Ancient Greece, begins when the flame is transported to the host country.
One year after arriving in Tokyo, the 121-day relay kicked off on March 25 in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the disastrous 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, according to The Washington Post.
Celebrities and members of the royal family have taken part in the relay for decades — here, we’ve rounded up some of the most memorable moments of the past 25 years.
The legendary boxer, who won a gold medal in the Rome 1960 Olympic Games, carried the torch 36 years later at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Ali also kicked off the 2002 Salt Lake City relay, which traveled through more than 300 towns in order to promote the Games across the United States.
The journalist and former Today co-host took a turn with the Salt Lake City 2002 torch during the New York City leg.
"Carrying" may be forbidden in basketball, but the NBA icon got to do just that with the Salt Lake City 2002 torch in Newport Beach, California.
This fire isn't gone just yet! The country singer-songwriter held the torch during the Louisville leg of the 2002 Salt Lake City relay.
The news anchor also took a turn with the torch during the Louisville leg.
The Emmy-winning West Wing star proudly held the Salt Lake City 2002 torch aloft in Los Angeles.
During the Salt Lake City relay's N.Y.C. leg, the late television host waved to the crowd as he carried the flame.
Venus & Serena Williams
The tennis powerhouses tipped their torches together in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, during the 2002 relay.
The First Wives Club actress was all smiles carrying the Salt Lake City 2002 torch in L.A.
Before saying "Bye, Bye, Bye" to the Salt Lake City 2002 torch, the former *NSYNC member carried it through Newport Beach, California.
The Rocky star showed off his muscles as he jogged along the beach in Santa Monica with the Athens 2004 torch.
In celebration of the return of the Games to their birthplace, the 2004 torch relay went international for the first time, traveling across every city that had hosted the Games since 1896.
The Live with Kelly and Ryan co-host ran through L.A. carrying the Athens 2004 torch.
The My Big Fat Greek Wedding actress and screenwriter took a spin through N.Y.C. during the 2004 Athens relay.
The talk show host jogged through L.A. during the 2004 relay.
Sean 'Diddy' Combs
The rapper missed his initial run after getting stuck in traffic, but managed to carry the torch for a stretch through Queens in the Athens 2004 N.Y.C. leg of the relay.
The soccer superstar looked dapper after ferrying the torch in a speedboat up the River Thames to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The royal equestrian, who is the eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth, trotted along on horseback with the London 2012 torch to Cheltenham Racecourse.
The Atonement actor, a Glasglow native, had the honor of carrying the torch through his hometown during the 2012 relay.
PEOPLE's 2019 Sexiest Man Alive brought his charms to the 2012 relay in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Sir Patrick Stewart
The Star Trek star grinned as he took his turn with the 2012 torch in London.
The rapper and Black Eyed Peas singer carried the 2012 torch through Taunton, England.
Now that's a 'magic' moment! The Harry Potter actor paraded through London at the end of the 70-day torch relay in 2012.
Prince William, Kate Middleton & Prince Harry
One day before kicking off the 2012 London Olympic Games, the royal trio watched as torchbearers handed off the flames at Buckingham Palace.