Gatsioudis will begin Olympic Flame’s long trip

Javelin thrower Costas Gatsioudis will be the first torch-bearer when the Olympic Flame begins its five-month worldwide odyssey for the Athens 2004 Games, officials announced yesterday. The first torch will be lit on March 25, the anniversary of the first Modern Games in Athens in 1896 and also the date of Greece’s 1821 War of Independence. The international leg will start on June 4. For the first time, the flame, lit by the sun’s rays at Olympia, will travel across all five continents on a round trip that will bring it back to Greece for the August 13 opening ceremony. Greek National Olympic Committee President Lambis Nikolaou said Gatsioudis had been chosen because he was a «great athlete who had suffered bad luck.» The 30-year-old is a three-times world championship medalist but has yet to win an Olympic medal because of injuries. Greek Olympic 100-meters silver medalist Katerina Thanou will complete the initial Greek leg of the relay, bringing the flame to the old Olympic Stadium where it will remain until early June. In between, seven international athletes will take part in special archaeological legs designed to showcase Greece’s ancient heritage. Past and present Olympians led by Sergei Bubka, Alexander Popov and Prince Albert of Monaco will bear the flame across sites such Mycenae and Mystras. The relay will travel through all previous Summer Games host cities and visit all land masses represented by the Olympic rings – Oceania, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. More than 3,600 foreign torchbearers and nearly 7,000 Greeks will carry the flame, each of them running about 400 meters. (Reuters)