The Grand Relay [Большая эстафета] (1979)

9 min. / Russian / dir. Ivan Aksenchuk

This film was produced by Soyuzmultfilm as a promotion for the 1980 Olympic Games. It traces out the history of the Olympic games, imagining them as a “grand relay” through the ages, with the torch passed down from ancient Greece to the modern USSR.

The film begins with figures coming to life on a Greek amphora. Paris abducts Helen and the Trojan War breaks out. The battle rages as the gods watch from Mt. Olympus, and grow ever more agitated with the violence. Zeus finally intervenes by hurling down a tripod between the armies and thereby transforms their murderous combat into peaceful athletic competition. Various ancient events are showcased, and then the flame within the tripod begins to guide the viewer through the centuries. The torch is extinguished as the ancient era comes to an end (we see temples turn to ruins) and finally a man in the 19th century picks up the extinguished torch and brings it back to life. This is Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern games.

From there each modern Olympiad is listed and its location is portrayed in a relevant artistic style with accompanying music from the era, as the torch continues to be passed. Small panels show the athletic events as they would have been practiced in that time, or later, they feature live-action footage. The years in which there were no Olympics because of the World Wars are also mentioned. The film concludes with live shots of the Moscow cityscape interspersed with scenes of the animated torch bearer, as he runs through the city and with a final scene of Misha the bear, the Olympic mascot, standing on the podium celebrating a gold medal win.

The film features no dialogue or voice over, just Russian text displayed on screen at various points.


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