The Olympic torch is being welcomed this weekend in the UK as a symbol of the sporting spirit, uniting people around the world in peaceful competition.
But the idea of lighting the torch at the ancient Olympian site in Greece and then running it through different countries has much darker origins.
It was invented in its modern form by the organisers of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
And it was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence. [...]
The route the torch takes has always been a matter of careful political planning too.
This year's route has already proved highly controversial.
Beijing wanted to take the torch through Taiwan's capital, Taipei, but this had to be changed by Olympic authorities due to political tensions between the Chinese and Taiwanese leaders.
And there is now great tension over plans to run the torch through Tibet after recent disturbances there.
In 1936 the torch made its way from Greece to Berlin through countries in south-eastern and central Europe where the Nazis were especially keen to enhance their influence.
Given what happened a few years later that route seems especially poignant now.
"Sporting chivalrous contest," Hitler declared just before the torch was lit, "helps knit the bonds of peace between nations. Therefore may the Olympic flame never expire."
Yet the flame's arrival in Vienna prompted major pro-Nazi demonstrations, helping pave the way for the Anschluss, or annexation of Austria, in 1938.
In Hungary gypsy musicians who serenaded the flame faced within a few years face deportation to Nazi death camps.
Other countries on the relay route like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia would soon be invaded by Germans equipped not with Krupp torches but with Krupp munitions.
And let's not forget where the flame will be on April 28th.