Godspeed! Vatican launches official athletics team

    Members of the Athletica Vaticana sports team run in front of St. Peter's Basilica on Thursday.

    (CNN)The Vatican has set its sights on qualifying for the Olympics, with a track team of up of 60 athletes, including nuns, priests, Swiss Guards, museum workers, carpenters and maintenance workers.

    The Holy See launched its official athletics team Thursday, after receiving the blessing of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).
    Its first race takes place in nine days, and the team's backing from CONI -- hailed as a "historic moment" by Vatican press office director Alessandro Gisotti -- allows it to become a member of international sports federations.
      "The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games," said the team's president, Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda.
      But swapping the altar for the podium is a challenge of biblical proportions, Sanchez admitted at the team's introductory press conference.
      "It's a long shot," he said, adding that the team's journey "all started from a group of us that used to run together along the Tiber river or at the sports facilities center near the Baths of Caracalla."
      CONI President Giovanni Malagò said the team's creation was a "wonderful initiative."
      But he was wary of the prospect of the Vatican denying Italian athletes medals, joking: "The more committees there are, the more medals get scattered around. So, don't get too big."
      The Vatican already fields an unofficial soccer team, while its cricket team has toured the UK on several occasions.