The Olympic flame lit in the traditional of the ancient Olympics last Sunday in Olympia, Greece is on its way to Sochi 2014 host country Russia for a 65,000 kilometer Olympic torch relay. Russia is the world’s largest country in land area and plans for the torch relay are big to match. This famed symbol of world unity will literally go out of this world – one leg will be a flight into outer-space to the International Space Station, where a zero gravity space walk is planned.
Greek figure skater Panagiotis Markouizos carried the torch into the Panatheanic Stadium in Athens today for a special ceremony attended by 15,000 spectators. The skater lit the cauldron at the stadium, symbolizing the links between the ancient Olympics and the modern Olympics. Greek actress Ino Menegaki, clad as a high priestess of Olympia, passed the Olympic flame to the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Spyros Kapralos, during the ceremony. Kapralos handed a torch lit from the cauldron to Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak with a symbolic handshake, launching the flame on its next international journey.
The Olympic flame will be transported by jet from Athens to Moscow, where the 123 day relay through Russia will begin at the landmark Red Square. The route will reinforce the universality and strength of the Olympic spirit by literally taking the torch relay to the next level and beyond. Plans include lowering the torch below the surface of Lake Baikal, transport to the North Pole by Nuclear submarine and a rocket race into outer space for a manned torch walk from the International Space Station. U.S. astronaut Michael Hopkins is already aboard the International Space Station and eager for this cameo role by an American Olympic fan to show enthusiasm for the Olympics is out of this world.