By Chase Brownell
When it comes to the Olympic Torch Relay, whatever your question is, Cheryl Cagle has the answer.
Millions of people have seen the Olympic Torch relay on TV or in person. Few people know that the inventors of the Torch relay logistics plan are from Louisville, Colorado. Alem International are the technical consultant for the IOC for the Olympic Torch Relay.
As an integral part of Alem International, Cagle is a dynamic motivator whose life experiences range from graduating from the University of Georgia to managing VIP torchbearer programs for top clients, including VISA, Omega and the International Olympic Committee. Known to many around the world as the queen of torchbearer operations for the Olympic Torch Relay, the Georgia native has participated in hosting the torch relay in every city every two years since Atlanta in 1996.
The 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan, (now postponed) is no exception for the queen as she prepares for the trek from Olympia starting March 12.
“Even as a young girl I was always drawn to the Olympics, but I never dreamed I would be as involved with the games as I am,” Cagle said.
She has carried the torch a total of six times throughout her career, including through Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Athens, Torino, Sochi and Rio de Janeiro. Cagle manages and executes torchbearer programs that consistently produce exceptional results and memorable experiences while delivering a personal touch to every program guest. She also creates custom events and supports sponsor operations in each city as the relay continues from Olympia to the host city.
A grandmother of four, she is used to being tasked with looking after eight to ten of the top VIP torchbearers who will carry the flame along the route.
“Once I started working with torchbearers, I’ve been involved in every single Olympics since,” Cagle said.
Each Olympic flame is lit in Olympia, Greece, and the same flame is kept throughout the entirety of the relay. The lantern that holds the flame is kept under a watchful eye to be sure it is never extinguished. For each day of the relay, a single torch is lit from the flame and passed on to each bearer as the relay continues. The lighting of the torch signifies unity and is a ritual that ties today’s Olympics to its ancient counterpart.
The 2020 Summer Olympic relay in Japan will include a total of 10,000 running the flame from Fukushima to Tokyo over 121 days.
When it comes to picking her favorite Olympics, Cagle says “it’s hard to pick a favorite — there are things you like about each city, but you love them all equally.”
Over the years, Cagle’s work has not only led her all across the globe, she has also met incredible people from celebrities to athletes, to presidents and even royalty. Since becoming a volunteer in the 1996 Atlanta games, she has seen more places, met more people and experienced more unique events than most people ever will in their lives.
In 1996, one month before the relay, Cagle’s torchbearer manager quit and she was asked to lead the entirety of the event herself.
“I think I have a pretty unique job, but nobody really thinks about it as being a job,” she said laughing. “I like to travel and I like meeting new people and learning about their cultures.”
The torch for the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004 was carried through a total of 27 countries, 36 cities in 35 days. In order to move the torch so quickly, her team was given a private 747 to jet around the world.
When you ask people involved in the Olympics, many will say the coolest thing about the torch relay is that everyone has a chance to be involved. Reflecting back, Cagle is well aware of the most treasurable moments.
“The people who pass on the flame along small country roads will never get the chance to walk through the doors of an Olympic stadium, but for that one day they get to be part of a bigger picture, the Olympics,” she said. “It’s been an exciting journey, and I’m very lucky to be a part of it.”