Swedes take turn greeting Flame

STOCKHOLM – Landing in a special jet painted in Olympic colors and dubbed the Zeus the Olympic Flame was greeted yesterday by a throng of spectators as it began its relay through the capital, the site of the 1912 Summer Games. At Arlanda International Airport outside Stockholm, nearly a hundred people greeted the Zeus on the tarmac, the Swedish flag flying atop the cockpit. Stockholm City Sports Commissioner Py Boerjesson ferried the Flame down the exit ramp where it was cradled by Swedish Olympic officials ahead of its 48-kilometer (30-mile) relay. «It’s fantastic having the Olympic torch here with us,» Boerjesson said. «It symbolizes sports and the Olympic ideal, with fellowship, cooperation, friendship and peace of course.» The torch was flown in from Berlin, the site of the first modern torch relay more than six decades ago, when that city hosted the 1936 Summer Games. One of the 24 runners picked by the Swedish Olympic Committee, 1972 Olympic diving gold medalist Ulrika Knape, said she was proud to be one of the participants. «It is a great honor to be able to do this, it’s a special feeling,» she said. «To me, the Olympics are so big, so grandiose, because they unite the whole world.» The torch relay started a little before midday yesterday in Sollentuna, at a memorial to the 1912 Summer Games. It was then passed on by 128 people who jogged 400 meters (437 yards) apiece before handing it off to the next runner. Torchbearers included several politicians, athletes, notable citizens and Prince Carl-Phillip, among others. The itinerary included several key spots, including Stadion, the site of the 1912 Games, which is still used to host track and field events, soccer and concerts. The torch also wound its way past the Royal Palace, historic Gamla Stan (Old Town) and by Stockholm City Hall before reaching Kungstraedgaarden, where it was used to light an Olympic pyre amid a tassel of Greek dancers and pop band E-Type. Besides hosting the 1912 Games, Stockholm also hosted the equestrian events for the 1956 Olympics because Australia had a quarantine that prevented the horses from traveling to host city Melbourne. This year, the torch started its journey on March 25 in the Games’ ancient birthplace in Olympia, Greece. It will return to Greece on July 9, making its way to Athens for the opening ceremonies in August. Stockholm was the 28th city on the Flame’s 33-city tour. Today, the torch arrives in Helsinki, Finland, the site of the 1952 Summer Games.