This project explored the history and symbolism of the Olympic Games by using a narrative parallel to the rituals that this global phenomenon has unfolded since the first third of the 20th century.
Thus, Ruben Santiago replicated the pre inaugural Olympic ritual, adding minor changes to it in an attempt to critically highlight the foundations of a tradition whose origins are far more recent than what they are believed to be.
It was in 1936 that the current convention was introduced, marking the first step towards the infamous Berlin Summer Games organized by Nazi Germany, a key event in Hitler regime's efforts to propagate and legitimize its ideology of racial supremacy.
Since then, a ceremony is held in the ruins of Olympia every 4 years: A fire is lit by means of a system of mirrors in the site where the Temple of Hera once stood.
This flame is then transported, in the form of a torch carried successively by many athletes, to the Olympic venue. The arrival of this fire marks the beginning of the games and is the climax of the opening ceremony.
In September 2009, also near the ruins of the Temple of Hera, Rubén started his own fire, but instead of lighting a torch the rays of the sun concentrated in a single point lit a cigarette.
This was the first in a long chain that the artist continuously smoked, lighting each one with the remains of the previous one.
Crossing seven countries, traveling the 3,900 kilometres that separate Olympia from Madrid, Rubén smoked hundreds of cigarettes during the 6-day journey by car.
Once the last of these cigars reached the exhibition space, its embers were used to ignite a new flame that, contained in a cauldron, was shown as the main element of the public presentation of the project.
The exhibition was inaugurated on October 1, 2009, one day before the International Olympic Committee made public the city chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games, Madrid being one of the candidates.
Rio de Janeiro was the chosen venue.