Saturday 21 April 2018

Olympic flame handed to Rio organisers 100 days before Games

The head of Greece's Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos, holds the torch with the Olympic flame, in Athens (AP)
The head of Greece's Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos, holds the torch with the Olympic flame, in Athens (AP)

The Olympic flame has been handed to organisers of the Rio de Janeiro Games, exactly 100 days before the opening ceremony.

Dressed as a high priestess, actress Keterina Lechou led the brief event at the Panathenian Stadium, a horseshoe-shaped marble venue where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Ms Lechou, who lit the flame in Ancient Olympia last week, used a torch to light a cauldron inside the Athens stadium.

The flame, placed in a lantern, was handed over to Greek Olympic Committee president Spyros Kapralos, who, in turn, passed it to Rio Games organising head Carlos Nuzman.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who is fighting impeachment over allegations of erroneous budget figures, declined an invitation to visit Greece for the lighting ceremony and the start of the Olympic torch's six-day journey around the country.

Mr Nuzman said that Brazilians would come together in celebration during the Games, which will be held from August 5 to 21.

"Our mission, dear friends, is bigger than Brazil itself. We represent all the peoples of South America," he told a crowd of several thousand Athenians.

In a highlight of the Greek torch relay, the flame made a symbolic stop at a United Nations-run refugee camp in Athens on Tuesday.

The torch was carried by Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al-Hussein.

After Wednesday's ceremony, the flame will travel to Switzerland, where it will visit the United Nations building in Geneva and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

The flame will reach Brazil next Tuesday, starting in the capital of Brasilia.

Organisers say it will reach most of the vast country's population, covering 20,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) by road and 16,000 kilometres (10,000 miles) by air to reach hundreds of cities and towns in a giant effort involving 12,000 torchbearers.

The torch will reach Rio's Maracana Stadium for the opening ceremony on August 5.

"We will take the Olympic experience to every corner of our country, to every state capital," Mr Nuzman said.

"When you arrive in Rio there will plenty of music, poetry and excitement... Rio is ready to deliver history."

Press Association

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