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Olympic Torch Relay Begins Long Journey

Posted March. 25, 2008 04:31,   


The flame for the Beijing Summer Olympics yesterday was lit in front of the Temple of Hera, the site of ancient Olympia.

Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, playing a high priestess, lit the torch using the traditional way of using the sun’s rays. Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis attended the ceremony along with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.

The first torchbearer in the relay was Greek taekwondo great Alexandros Nikolaidis, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games. He lost to Korea’s Moon Dae-sung in the final of the men’s 80-kg division. The torch will travel across 43 Greek cities through Sunday and be moved to Beijing on March 31.

From Beijing, the torch will follow a route passing through six continents beginning with Central Asia and Europe. After visiting the Americas, Africa and Australia, it will arrive in Seoul on Apr. 27 and then in Pyongyang the next day. The torch will return to Beijing after making its final round in Southeast Asia.

Under the theme “Journey of Harmony,” the relay will last 138 days and cover 137,000 kilometers and 21 nations.

The torch lit in Greece is divided into three flames. The first two will travel to China and the remaining one will be kept in Greece until the relay ends. The third flame will serve as a back-up to the other two if they are blown out in their journey. The torch has been designed to withstand wind speed of 65 kilometers per hour and 50 millimeters of rain per hour.

Chinese authorities will separately manage one of the two flames and bring it to Mount Qomolangma (the Tibetan name for Mount Everest), the world’s highest peak, in May. The lighting, however, might not take place as scheduled due to the recent unrest in Tibet.