Russian President Vladimir Putin ceremoniously lit the Olympic flame on Red Square on Sunday, but the four-month relay to Sochi for the Winter Games got off to a rocky start when one of the torches went out.
The glitch occurred when a torch bearer ran through a long passageway leading into the Kremlin, which apparently created a wind tunnel, extinguishing the flame. A man standing along the route pulled out a lighter and the flame leaped back to life.
Hoisting the flame in Moscow, Mr Putin declared in a ceremony shown live on television that “our shared dream is becoming reality”.
He said the Games would show “respect for equality and diversity – ideals that are so intertwined with the ideals of the Olympic movement itself”.
Mr Putin said the relay would show off Russia “the way that it is and the way we love it”.
“Today is a joyous and momentous day,” he said. “The Olympic flame – the symbol of the planet’s main sports event, the symbol of peace and friendship – has arrived in Russia, and in a few minutes it will be on its way around our huge country.”
The Olympic flame had been flown in from Greece after being lit last Sunday at the birthplace of the ancient Games.
The run-up to the Games has so far been marred by controversy over a new Russian law that restricts the spread of information about homosexuality, as well as allegations by rights groups that authorities have rounded up migrant workers who helped build the Games venues in Sochi.
In the coming days and months, the flame is due to travel 65,000 kilometers across Russia, including up the country’s highest mountain and to the North Pole, before arriving in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in February.
(source: rianovosti, AP, BBC)