Rehhagel to carry torch

tto Rehhagel, the German soccer coach who steered Greece’s national team to victory at Euro 2004, will run a leg of the Athens Olympic torch relay, Games officials said yesterday. The hugely popular Rehhagel accepted the offer to carry the flame on Sunday as it reaches the newly opened Rio-Antirio suspension bridge. The Rio-Antirio suspension bridge, one of the world’s longest of its kind, spans the 2.3-kilometer-wide, earthquake-prone straits between Antirio, in western mainland Greece, and Rio, a suburb of Patras on the Peloponnesian peninsula of southern Greece. It will open officially to traffic on August 12, a day before the Games’ opening ceremony, a month ahead of schedule. Rehhagel will pass the flame to Stratos Apostolakis, the coach of Greece’s Olympic soccer team who, along with his squad of under-23 players, will run a collective leg across the 2.3km (1.4-mile) bridge. Known to Greeks as «King Otto» after turning a group of rank outsiders into European champions, Rehhagel turned down an offer to coach his native Germany last month to remain at the helm of Greece. According to a poll conducted after the competition, 80 percent of respondents said they agreed with a proposal by Greek Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis to award Rehhagel Greek citizenship. Athens 2004, the Games organizers, had considered naming the Euro team as torch runners across the bridge, but the idea was dropped as players were not available, having joined their clubs in pre-season training camps Greece’s Olympic team, which comprises only one substitute player from the country’s victorious Euro squad, is currently training in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, which will host part of the Olympic soccer tournament. Organizers are keeping tight wraps on the identity of the torchbearer who is to run the final leg of the global relay taking the flame into the stadium and lighting the Olympic cauldron on August 13. (Reuters/AFP)

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