Exceedingly rare official 1968 Mexico City Olympics ‘Type 6’ torch, constructed of steel with a central leather handle and three copper rings, measuring 22.25″ in length and 7.25″ at its widest point. The uppermost ring is engraved with the Olympic rings and features a plain bronze bowl. The torch exhibits notable evidence of detrition from age and usage, such as scattered rusting, a ding to upper section, and wear to steel and brass finishes; however, the bowl is in immaculate shape and the wick remains intact and unused. The wick cap, which has appeared with another found ‘Type 6’ torch, is not present.
The discovery of the ‘Type 6’ Olympic torch occurred nearly 50 years after the 1968 Summer Games when Olympic researchers used photographic evidence to certify its existence and very necessary creation. Aside from its distinction as being the first Spanish-speaking Olympiad, the Mexico City Games hold the honor of having the most styles of relay torches; a record obtained not for the sake of one-upmanship, but rather due to the faulty design of the original torch (Type 1), which, because of its aluminum alloy frame, overheated and made it impossible to carry. Handles made of amianthus rope (Type 2) and leather (Type 3) provided temporary solutions until the torch’s new, slimmer design resulted in the torch top, with “Mexico 68,” melting. This too was addressed with the additions of the ‘Type 4’ and ‘Type 5’ torches, but the creation of the ‘Type 6’ torch was due to an entirely different and more dangerous reason.
On a busy Barcelona street on September 1, 1968, Mariana Valls, son of the president of the Barcelona Athletics Federation, met Olympian Gregorio Rojo to pass the Olympic flame from one torch to another. At the moment of transfer, Rojo’s torch exploded. Both men received minor injuries, the torch relay continued shortly thereafter, and the cause of the detonation was attributed to the fuel volatility and the ‘too-rapid contact of a lighted torch with an unlighted one.’ In an attempt to protect future torchbearers, as well as to prevent further bad publicity, a safer, simpler torch was developed by the Spanish Olympic Committee (SCO)—the ‘Type 6,’ a torch that was exclusively made for use during certain portions of the relay in Spain. As further evidence, the SCO had minted a special torch relay medal for the Spanish route, which clearly depicts the ‘Type 6’ torch.
By the time the torch made landfall on Mexican soil on October 6th—having successfully recreated the route taken by Christopher Columbus to the New World—the torch and its defect issues had been resolved. The flame was carried into the Estadio Olímpico Universitario on October 12th by Mexican Olympian Enriqueta Basilio, who became the first woman to ever light the Olympic Cauldron, after an historic 13,546 km route that featured the support of an astounding 2,778 torchbearers. A magnificent, museum-quality piece of Olympic history.
A fascinating article on the Spanish relay route by Ricard Fernandez Valenti can be found here:
Video link of the "Type 6" torch being used during the ceremony (Start on minute 01:18)
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.