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Sixteen days before the start of the Krakow-Malopolska 2023 European Games, a unique event took place at the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The torch with the Flame of Peace went underground for the first time, and during the ceremony the medals for which the participants of the Games will compete were presented.

The Flame of Peace of the European Games Krakow – Małopolska 2023 is travelling across Poland – from the Baltic Sea to the Tatra Mountains. On 5 June, it reached 125 metres underground – to the Stanisław Staszic chamber in the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Placed in a salt sculpture, it will remain underground until the end of the Games (2 July).

The Flame of Peace was lit on 3 April in Rome and then set off for Poland. A relay is currently underway – the torch is travelling around the country with athletes, and will soon visit Krakow again. On 21 June, the Opening Ceremony of the European Games will take place at the Henryk Reyman Municipal Stadium. The culmination will be the lighting of the Games torch.

A celebration for the whole country lies ahead

For now, however, the Flame of Peace has gone to Wieliczka. The Minister of Sport and Tourism, Kamil Bortniczuk, who was present there, proudly announced that, thanks to the efforts of the organisers, Europe’s best athletes will take part in the Games.

“We have before us a celebration not only of sport, but also of the whole country. We have the opportunity to present ourselves as a safe, stable country capable of organising world-class sporting events. I would like to thank today all the people who have made this happen, and we have had to go through a lot together to make it happen. We have a bright future ahead of us and the prospect of organising even more ambitious projects”, he argued.

In a similar vein, Deputy Minister of State Assets Andrzej Sliwka spoke. “It is an exceptional joy that we can meet today in a place that is one of Poland’s showpieces. It is the perfect location to present the medals for which the athletes will be competing in a few days’ time. Medals which symbolise and reward their toil and hard work. I am also glad that state-owned companies are getting involved in this event, because apart from the Wieliczka Mine where we are today, PKN Orlen and Totalizator Sportowy have become general partners of the European Games”, he said.

The Marshal of the Małopolska Region, Witold Kozłowski, emphasised that another step towards the organisation of the Games was behind the organisers. “Just two years ago it might have seemed that Covid had beaten us. At that time, however, Minister Jacek Sasin appointed Mr Andrzej Śliwka as the person responsible for the European Games 2023 project, and the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, which had been set up, was taken over by Mr Kamil Bortniczuk. It is thanks to them that the European Games in Poland became a reality. The road was winding, but we managed to overcome many obstacles”, he said in Wieliczka.

Uniting around universal values

The President of the Organising Committee, Marcin Nowak, emphasised the excellent cooperation with the Wieliczka Mine. – Our presence in this extraordinary place is another step in the journey of the Flame of Peace. It is also a special day, as the medals that will soon be won by our athletes were presented. I firmly believe that on the very first day of the Games at least one of these medals will hang around the neck of a Polish athlete. I invite you to the biggest event of 2023 in Europe,” he said.

The Fire of Peace, enclosed in a miner’s lamp, the so-called zicherce, reminds us of the Olympic ideals: honour, honesty, solidarity. These are also values that are important to the miners of Wieliczka, who created the Wieliczka mine by digging into the salt rock and now care for it and make it accessible to visitors.

“The Flame of Peace has a symbolic dimension. In the past, the fire carried in a torch gave miners encouragement, helped them find their way, dispelled the mine’s darkness. It was a companion and a guide. Today, 125 metres underground, we have placed the Flame of Peace on the salt which, for centuries, has been the source of Poland’s wealth. Salt is capable of moving human hearts and uniting around universal values. Fire and salt in the Wieliczka mine today jointly symbolise light, unity, strength, truth, promoting the most important values of the Olympic Games”, said Paweł Nowak, President of the Management Board of the Wieliczka Salt Mine S.A.

Presentation of medals

The Wieliczka miners prepared a solid pedestal in the shape of a miner’s cachet for the Flame of Peace. A salt sculpture was placed on it, presenting the logo of the Games. The author of the sculpture is the miner-sculptor Jan Banaś. The firebrand is embedded in the centre of the logo, and on either side are proudly flexing their breasts (also made of salt) the mascots of the Games: Smok Krakusek and Salamandra Sandra.

Monday also saw the presentation of the European Games medals. The bullion for the discs comes from recycled materials – such as electronic materials or unused jewellery. The medals are a fusion of tradition and modernity. They draw heavily on Polish history, but also on the traditions of the region – which is why there is no lack of simplified forms of folk ornamentation. The whole of Europe, but also the world, has the chance to get to know our roots and the unique DNA of Małopolska.