05/10/2013 Greece Hands Olympic Flame to Russia

Olympic Flame Stadio

With a protest from Greek gay groups outside, the Olympic flame on Oct. 5 was handed over to the organizers of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics that will be held in the Russian winter resort. The ceremony took place at the Panathinaikos Stadium, site of the first modern summer games in 1896.

Ino Menagaki, an actress, dressed as a high priestess, who lit the flame in Ancient Olympia on Sept. 29, lit a torch from a cauldron placed. The flame, placed in a lantern, was handed over to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak.

After a seven-day run through Greece, the flame will cover 40,000 miles on Russian soil. The record-setting relay will start on Oct. 7 in Moscow and finish in Sochi on Feb. 7,  2014, the opening day of the games.

From its overnight perch on the ancient Acropolis, the flame traveled through Athens’ streets before being carried into the stadium, built in 330 B.C., by Greek figure skating champion Panagiotis Markouzios. As he lit the golden cauldron encircled by priestesses in long, cream-colored, pleated robes, the crowd erupted in cheers of “Russia! Russia!”

“We are especially emotional,” Hellenic Olympic Committee head Spyros Capralos said. “The flame, for us Greeks, is a piece of our country, a part of our history and a tight bond to our ancestors”.

The flame will be flown in special safety lanterns from Athens to Moscow on Oct. 6 and it will then begin the longest torch relay in the history of the Winter Games from the Red Square, looping around Russia’s 83 regions on foot, in sleighs, hot air balloons and even on a trip to space, as Russia prepares to showcase its modern post-Soviet face.


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