Press Release

Ravne na Koroškem, 22 April 2021 – Today is a very special day for Koroška, for Slovenian steelmaking with over 400 years of tradition and for Slovenian sport. The Slovenian torch for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will embark on a journey across Slovenia for 81 days awakening the mind of steel, was born at the SIJ Metal Ravne steel plant.

In 1620, Melhior Puc, a smelter and miner from the Labotska valley, transferred the concession for two smelting furnaces to Koroška and built the first smithy on Mušenik. This marked the beginning of steelmaking in the Mežica Valley, one of the most important industries in Slovenia today.

“We are honored and proud that 400 years later, the Slovenian torch for Tokyo 2020 rose from the fires of the SIJ Metal Ravne steelworks. The torch is a tribute to the steelmaking tradition successfully continued by the SIJ Group, which is passed down from generation to generation and plays a defining role in the lives of many generations of inhabitants of Koroška. The best things in the world contain Sij steel. One of them is the Slovenian torch.”

With these words, the representatives of the SIJ Group, Mitja Kordež, the first bearer of the torch after its completion, Viljem Pečnik, director of the SIJ Ravne Systems, Alenka Stres, director of the SIJ Zip center and Borut Urnaut, director of SIJ Metal Ravne, handed over the Slovenian torch to Petra Majdič, Mind of Steel ambassador of the SIJ Group, to give it the mind of steel: “I am extremely proud to have this honor to breathe life into the Slovenian torch. Its mind of steel. It is my sincere wish for the torch to awaken the inner strength, the mind of steel we all carry within us, first on its journey across Slovenia and later on in Slovenian Olympic athletes in Tokyo. This is the only way to achieve your goals and become the very best at what you do. Let’s awaken the mind of steel that lies within us! Let the journey of the Slovenian torch begin!”

In the hands of Petra Majdič , the torch made its first symbolic steps from the SIJ Metal Ravne steel plant between SIJ facilities at Ravne to the Ironmaking Museum, Štauharija. At the museum featuring an exhibition in honor of the 400th anniversary of steelmaking in the Mežica Valley, Petra Majdič and the torch were greeted by guests of honor.

On this occasion, dr. Tomaž Rožen, Mayor of the Ravne na Koroškem municipality, said: "Steelwork has been shaping the lives of many generations of inhabitants of Koroška for 400 years. In the present, the Ravne na Koroškem municipality is decidedly shaped by the steel industry and companies on the site of the former ironworks, and the technical heritage is an important part of the cultural heritage of the area. In 1979, the sculptor Milena Braniselj – Kranjc used our steel from Ravne for her artwork, baton for Tito’s 34th Štafeta mladosti relay. The Slovenian torch is a good example of how a technical product is intertwined with art and connected to it. We will follow the torch’s journey to Tokyo and back with pride.”

Bogdan Gabrovec, President of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia – Association of Sports Federations: “Today is a great day. By working together, we managed, in these challenging times, to carry out this first, symbolic event within the scope of this year's largest project of the Slovenian Olympic Committee, the Slovenian Torch. A handful of us were able to witness the birth of the torch, which is imbued with a mind of steel and which I firmly believe  will help us carry out this challenging project lying ahead. We are looking forward to visiting the whole of Slovenia, to the journey of the torch through all Slovenian municipalities and to 81 days of Olympic atmosphere full of optimism, which is so sorely needed in these times. We’ve got this. We have Olympic dreams.”

So, the empowered Slovenian torch is ready for the journey. Petra Majdič handed the torch over to its guardian in a special ceremony, saying: "Urška, I'm passing to you the Slovenian torch. On its journey across Slovenia, may it bring forth the mind of steel among the people as well as Slovenian Olympians, unyielding like steel. Let's awaken the mind of steel together!”

Urška Žolnir Jugovar, ambassador of the Slovenian Torch project, will, as the guardian of the torch, ensure that its light never goes out.

“The 81-day journey of the Olympic torch across Slovenia is now underway. A torch combining the virtual and the real, a torch whose flame inspires hope and a bright future. May this torch be a beacon of light in each and every Slovenian home in all 212 municipalities that the torch will visit, and may it inspire everyone with hope, happiness, fighting spirit and joy. May this be a torch of all Slovenians, a torch of new beginnings and victories. We’ve got this, we have Tokyo!”

The Slovenian torch will be carried across Slovenia by thousands of torch bearers, all of whom will receive a piece of SIJ Group recycled steel on a string as a token of tribute and memento. The Slovenian torch is also made of SIJ Group recycled steel. This material  

“is widely used in all areas of human life, including sports and sports infrastructure. The Slovenian torch will thus enable each torch bearer to come into direct contact with the most recycled material in the world, another topic about which the SIJ Group is raising public awareness through sponsorship projects,” says mag. Sara Wagner, Head of Corporate Communications at SIJ Group.

The torch is made of recycled steel and beech wood: steel symbolizes strength and durability, while beech symbolizes wisdom and confidence. The torch is topped by a steel crown in the shape of Triglav. The beech wood handle is encircled by five steel Olympic rings, symbols of unity. The flame in the crown emanates light, a symbol of hope.

The Slovenian torch, which weighs 1,951 grams and measures 72 centimeters in size, will, after bringing together the inhabitants of all 212 Slovenian municipalities, end its journey on June 23 with a return to its birthplace, Ravne na Koroškem.

You can follow current events about the Slovenian Torch project on the website and on social networks with the help of #slovenskabakla, #jeklenavolja and #imamotokio hashtags.

More information:
SIJ – Slovenian Steel Group, d.d.
Mag. Sara Wagner, Head of Corporate Communications
Phone: +386 1 242 98 27
Mobile: +386 41 313 532