Olympic torch relay to make unprecedented world journey

The Athens 2004 torch will travel the world to all the cities that have hosted the summer Olympics, organizers said yesterday. «It is the first torch that will travel to the five continents,» said Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of Games’ organizers, Athens 2004, referring to North and South America as a single continent. The 65-day international route also includes Beijing, site of the 2008 Games. Other cities along the way for the approximately 10,000 torchbearers are Cairo, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, New York and Lausanne, the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. The round-the-world route, which will start with Sydney, host of the 2000 Games, will last 35 days before reaching Greece for a final 30-day stretch. The torch relay’s planned route in order of succession is: Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Saint Louis, Atlanta, New York, Montreal, London, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Lausanne, Munich, Berlin, Stockholm, Helsinki, Moscow, Nicosia and Greece. «The torch relay is really the most powerful symbol of the Games,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said. «It gives the ability to participate to a large number of people.» Organizers have secured about 20 million euros for the relay and additional costs will be covered by sponsors. Each country’s national Olympic committee will help chose the torchbearers. The route’s specifics around Greece will be announced in the coming days. It is expected to pass through 175 points, with participation by 6,500 torchbearers. «We promised an international Olympic torch relay when bidding for the Games in 1997, not only to the IOC but to the entire world,» said Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. «We promised to unite the Olympic movement and remind all the countries that have already hosted the Games of the magic of humanity’s biggest celebration,» she added. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said the organizing committee would be able to add a further three cities to the torch relay’s international route without burdening its budget. She said this would be decided following a meeting with the government. «These cities will need to have a secure environment, necessary infrastructure, particular cultural elements which distinguish them from other cities, as well as active national Olympic committees and sports federations,» said Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. In keeping with the Olympic spirit’s ideals, neither the torchbearers nor the Olympic torch will sport sponsor emblems. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki pointed out that no participants in Greece and abroad would pay to take part. Selection criteria include the individuals’ ability to cover a distance of between 300 and 500 meters. Moreover, officials will seek to recruit individuals who have an active background in sports, as well as support for social work and humanitarian issues. (AP/ANA)