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  • On-the-Scene -- Olympic Flame in Sochi Hands


    Dmitry Kozak (right) holds the lit Sochi torch as Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos looks on. (ATR)
    (ATR) For the second time in the history of the Olympic Games, the Olympic flame is now under the care and protection of Russian hands.

    Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak took possession of the flame for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics during a ceremony at the stadium used for the 1896 Athens Olympics.

    “It was nearly three decades ago that the Olympic flame visited our country,” said Kozak in reference to the 1980 Olympics.

    "With the trust and support of the international Olympic movement, a renewed Russia gained the right to welcome again the most spectacular sports event in the world – the Olympic Games.

    About 5,000 spectators came to the stadium for the handover ceremony. (ATR)
    “On this momentous day I am telling you with certainty, our country has claimed this right and will succeed in fulfilling its commitment to the international Olympic movement and will present the world with a spectacular event celebrating the Olympic values of friendship, respect, and excellence,” said Kozak at the sundown ceremony.

    Since being kindled at ancient Olympia last Sunday, the Olympic flame has been carried to the major cities of Greece, as is customary ahead of the flame handover ceremony. The flame arrived in Athens Friday, where the relay ended at the Acropolis. Saturday, the flame was carried from the Acropolis Museum to the Panathenaic Stadium.

    At the Museum, about three dozen protesters held gay pride flags and posters to protest the controversial Russian law that bans promotion of homosexuality to young people. The protesters stood back from the torch relay event, stayed silent, and did not interfere.

    Some silently showed their disapproval of Russia's law against promoting homosexuality at the Acropolis Museum. (ATR)
    Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos told Around the Rings that in Greece, the home of democracy, peaceful protests are normal events.

    The only flags waving in a steady breeze at the handover ceremony were those from Greece and Russia. A crowd of about 5,000 took seats in the white marble stadium that has become the venue for these ceremonies for each Olympic Games.

    IOC Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli and Marisol Casado, IOC member and president of the International Triathlon Union, represented president Thomas Bach. He attended the lighting ceremony seven days ago.

    Kozak, along with Sochi 2014 CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko, will leave Athens Sunday morning to carry the flame to Moscow. A chartered flight by Sochi sponsor Aeroflot will carry the Sochi team along with the flame, which will burn in a set of brass safety lamps.

    These safety lamps will carry the Sochi flame back to Russia. (ATR)
    President Vladimir Putin will be in Red Square Sunday afternoon for a welcoming ceremony to launch the Olympic torch relay in Russia.

    The relay will cover 56,000 km over the next four months after it takes off from Red Square Monday morning. Streets in the center of the city will be sealed off for the relay, likely to make Moscow traffic even more challenging than it usually is. The relay will spend two days in Moscow before heading north to St. Petersburg.

    Technically, it’s the first time for the flame in the Russian Federation. In 1980, Moscow was the capital of the USSR when it hosted the Summer Games and the last relay held in the country. The relay for 1980 seems miniscule compared to what’s planned for Sochi. The 1980 relay covered 5,000 km; the Sochi relay will be 10 times that distance. The Sochi relay will take 123 days (the longest torch relay ever, summer or winter) while 1980 lasted 30 days. About 14,000 torch runners will handle the Sochi flame; the 1980 relay included 5,000 runners.

    Written and reported in Athens by Ed Hula

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