Soccer heroes to carry flame across new bridge

Surprise Euro 2004 champions Greece will carry the Olympic Torch across the country’s new Rio-Antirio Bridge on August 8, five days ahead of the Athens Olympics, an informed source told AFP yesterday. «The normal distance covered by each runner [around 300 meters] will be shortened to allow the entire team to run over the bridge,» the source said. But organizers are still awaiting confirmation from the team’s captain, Theodoros Zagorakis, voted top player of Euro 2004, as well as the team’s German coach Otto Rehhagel. After their triumphal return to Greece from Portugal last week, some of the players had asked Olympic organizers to name Zagorakis as the final runner who will light the Olympic Flame at the Games’ opening ceremony on August 13. Organizers are still considering the request. Olympic regulations ban a runner from carrying the torch twice during the same relay. The Olympic Torch returned to Greece on Friday after a 78-day global journey for a final lap in the host country of the August 13-29 Olympics. The Rio-Antirio Bridge spans 2,883 meters (9,500 feet), making it one of the longest in the world of its kind, although it cannot be directly compared with other, shorter bridges which are supported by just two pylons instead of Rio-Antirio’s four. It bestrides the 2.2-kilometer (1.36 miles) wide, earthquake-prone sea straits between Antirio, in western mainland Greece, and Rio, a port near Patras in the Peloponnese, southern Greece. The bridge was not directly linked to the Olympics, but the Greek government pushed constructors to complete it for use in August before the Games, four months ahead of schedule. (AFP)