Sochi 2014: Olympic torch to begin epic trip as outer space beckons

Story highlights

  • Greece hands over the Olympic flame to Russia ahead of Sochi 2014 Winter Games
  • The torch will begin an epic journey on Monday, even going into outer space
  • It will cover 65,000 kilometers and be carried by 14,000 torchbearers
  • Russia hopes 90% of its population will in some way experience the relay

The Olympic flame is about to start the longest journey in the history of the Winter Games after the torch was passed from Greece to Russia on Saturday.

The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee took possession at the official Lighting Ceremony in Athens ahead of its 123-day journey across Russia, which will encompass 65,000 kilometers until the competition begins in February.

"We are proud to receive the Olympic flame, an important symbol of the Olympic Games," said Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee.

"The countdown to the Games starts here! During this relay, the flame will visit over 3,000 towns and cities in across Russia. We want to ensure that all residents of Russia will feel involved in the Olympic celebrations and the unifying power of the flame."

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As well as the conventional means of travel -- running -- Chernyshenko said the torchbearers will use Russian troikas, dog sleds, deer-drawn sleighs, snowmobiles, air-balloons, aircraft and trains, according to a report by the state-run Voice of Russia.

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It said the Olympic torch will be taken under water in Lake Baikal, and to the top of Europe's highest peak, Mount Eblrus.

It will also go to the North Pole on a nuclear-powered icebreaker and leave Earth to visit the International Space Station.

The Sochi 2014 relay website said that 130 million Russians -- some 90% of its population -- will have the chance to watch or participate directly in the relay, which begins in the Black Sea resort on Monday.

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Some 14,000 torchbearers will carry it through 2,900 settlements of 83 regions of the country, finishing in Sochi on February 7.

The flame was lit last Sunday in Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Games, and made its way through 33 towns before the ceremony in Athens.

Greek figure skater Panagiotis Markouizos lit the torch cauldron and passed the flame to a Russian party led by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak.

On Sunday it will travel to Moscow accompanied by six-time Olympic speed skating champion Lidiya Skoblikova.

The biggest torch relay in the history of the Olympics is the 137,000 km trip around China for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, which required 21,880 bearers.

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