How to: identify mystery torchbearers

Despite the promise of 8,000 torchbearers “all with inspirational stories”, hundreds of Olympic torchbearers have been listed on the official Olympic Torch Relay site without any nomination story at all. We’ve identified dozens who share their names with senior staff at sponsor organisations and their commercial partners. Here’s how to do it through some advanced search techniques:

1. Focus on torchbearers with particular biographical details

We’ve found that story-less torchbearers in the age bracket 30-50, and from outside the UK, are less likely to be sportspeople or community champions, and more likely to be company directors or senior managers, so it’s better to focus your searches accordingly.

2. Look around the same day

Once you’ve identified one, you’ll often find a bunch of others from the same country running on the same day. This is done for logistical reasons, and doesn’t mean anything nefarious, but it can help focus your searches.

For example, Dirk Schafer, running in Bognor Regis on July 16 without a story, comes from the German town of Schwalbach. Also running on that day from Germany are Dirk Rombach, Jens Boecking, Andreas Wienecke, Ryustem Kobakov, Murat Yatkin and Martin Vogt – none of whom have nomination stories. And running on that day from Germany with a story is Klaus Schumann. Notably, his story doesn’t mention any fundraising, community work or sporting achievement.

Further investigation allows us to verify that Schumann and Schafer are both employed by Samsung, and at least 3 of the other names are associated with the same company. Here’s how:

3. Circle round the name using search

People who have accomplished great things in sport tend to come up with a simple name search. Likewise to varying degrees, people involved in fundraising, and those in senior corporate positions. So a first search on the name alone may find the most likely match for that torchbearer.

If not, you can refine the search in a number of ways:

  • Add words like ‘Olympic’, ‘sport’, ‘fundraising’, ‘community’, ‘IOC’, ‘director’ or ‘manager’. These are the terms we’ve seen most often in connection with mystery torchbearers.
  • You can also try sponsor names like ‘Samsung’, ‘Dow Chemical’, etc. Note that the more you direct your search, the more you are influencing the results: finding someone with that name at a sponsor company, rather than the actual individual who is carrying the torch. It’s important that you cross-reference this with other details, such as those below – and be prepared to be proved wrong.

4. Try to match biographical details

  • Add details from their torchbearer profile, such as their hometown, their age or their year of birth (a 50-year-old could have a DOB of either 1962 or 1961).
  • If they have a picture, try searching for their name under an image search engine. If they don’t have a picture, and they’ve already carried the torch, try finding an image in coverage of their leg of the relay – the BBC Torch Relay liveblog has galleries (rather than clicking through the slideshow try viewing the source HTML for the relevant day and searching that), as does The Guardian – and most local newspapers will too.
  • Try search on a specialist site, like LinkedIn.
  • If they are a director, some of their details may be listed on that country’s version of Companies House. That’s how we found one torchbearer whose hometown was in Slovakia.

5. Try translated searches

If the torchbearer is in another country then webpages about them will be in another language – and their name may be spelt differently too. Jens Boecking, for example, can also be spelt Jens Böcking. And Russian names can be found in Cyrillic.

Likewise, that country may have more popular social networks that are worth trying separately.

6. Pick up the phone

Some cases will be confirmed by images, social network updates or by news reports elsewhere. But unless you’ve got those, pick up the phone and ask the company themselves if the person is running. They may not confirm it, but if they will not deny it that is notable in itself.

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