Category: Olympic torch


There is a light that sometimes goes out: the Olympic torch protests

A woman attempted to extinguish the torch’s flame in Japan with a squirt gun – and she’s far from the first to stage a protest during the torch relayAre you kind of, sort of, not really into the fact that the Olympics are still going to happen later th…


Olympic torch brings riot police and personal ad break on final journey

Two blocks from the Copacabana the torch prompted scenes perhaps similar to, but less celebratory than, those imagined by Olympic organisers

At midnight in Rio large crowds had gathered on both sides of the Avenue Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, two blocks back from the famous beach. Word had spread that the Olympic torch was coming this way sometime soon, only no one knew exactly when.

Its progress had been delayed on both of the previous two days, by one lot of protesters in Niterói on the other side of Guanabara Bay, and then another soon after it had arrived in the city itself.

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Jaguar shot dead just hours after posing with Olympic torch in Brazil – video

A jaguar has been shot dead just hours after taking part in a photoshoot to promote the Olympics in the Brazilian city of Manaus. The animal, which had escaped from its handlers, was killed when a soldier fired a shot at the jaguar as it approached him…


Winter Olympics torch relay nears end of long and bumpy road to Sochi

Vladimir Putin’s promise that torch relay would show the real Russia came true in ways he might not have anticipated

After being plunged to the bottom of the world’s deepest lake and hauled to the top of Europe’s highest mountain, the Olympic torch will finally arrive in Sochi on Wednesday evening, as it completes a gargantuan relay designed – like everything else about the Winter Olympics – to showcase Russia’s greatness to the world.

In this case it was the country’s vastness that was flaunted, as the torch travelled across multiple timezones, though steppe and mountains, tundra and taiga, huge cities and remote hamlets. As well as hitting the bed of Lake Baikal and the peak of Mount Elbrus, the torch even went all the way to the International Space Station after blasting off from Russia’s launchpad at Baikonur, lest we forget that Russia is the only country in the world that has such capacity for now.

A day before the flame’s arrival on the Black Sea coast in time for Friday’s opening ceremony, it was preceded in Sochi by the man who sent it on its way at a lavish ceremony in Red Square in October, President Vladimir Putin.

Then, Putin told the world that the torch relay would “show the world Russia as she is and as we love her”. But as the torch meandered its way through the endlessness of Russia, Putin’s claim that it would show the real Russia came true in ways he might not have anticipated.

In the northern port city of Murmansk, the torch was carried through the streets while Greenpeace activists who had protested against Arctic drilling languished in a crumbling prison a few blocks away. In Voronezh, a gay rights protester who attempted to wave a rainbow flag as the torch came past was wrestled away by police and detained.

In the restive province of Dagestan, the main source of the terrorist threat that overshadows the Games, the route had to be curtailed at the last minute due to security fears, and in Volgograd the torch was run down streets where, weeks before, crisis had struck with a pair of suicide bombings on public transport.

There, at least, the arrival of the torch brought a welcome dose of joy to a city in mourning. Elsewhere there was genuine excitement at the arrival of the torch, though along much of the route it was far too cold for anyone to be outside celebrating for long.

The relay has thrown up some stories that highlight Russia’s glorious quirkiness, such as the 101-year-old Siberian who was so proud at the opportunity that he spent weeks training for his chance to hold the torch by shuffling through his apartment and courtyard holding aloft a giant, torch-shaped frozen fish.

Even some of the disasters had their upside, showing the resilience and knack for improvisation that is such a characteristic of Russia. When the torch’s flame was put out by a rogue gust of wind moments after leaving the Kremlin walls, instead of the panicking and despondency that might have greeted such a mishap anywhere else, the torchbearer simply asked a bystander for a light. A lighter was duly produced, the Olympic torch relit with all the nonchalance of a Marlboro Light, and the runner was back on his way in seconds.

Nevertheless, the torch kept on extinguishing itself, causing those angry at the pomp and corruption around the Olympics to giggle and make jokes about the symbolism. In the Siberian city of Abakan, one of the torchbearers inadvertently set himself on fire when drops of liquid gas fell from his jacket, though he was not injured. A 73-year-old man died of a heart attack shortly after carrying the torch in the city of Kurgan, prompting noir humourists to note that the torch relay was now responsible for more victims than the huge anti-government protests in neighbouring Ukraine (the events in Kiev later caught up and overtook the fatality toll).

As the torch has neared the end of its journey, the controversy has not retreated. On Monday, several environmental activists who have investigated alleged abuses and corruption surrounding the Games were detained before the torch rally passed through Krasnodar. One of them could face a three-year jail sentence on what critics say are trumped-up charges related to his unwelcome digging into the construction of elite mansions in the Sochi area and environmental damage.

Putin’s Olympics take place in something of a parallel world, however. In recent weeks he has denied that there is any discrimination against gay people in Russia, and insisted there was no corruption in the preparations for the Games. On Tuesday he said it was an “undoubted fact” that the environment had been “improved many times over” due to the Winter Olympics.

The president’s first day in Sochi, the beginning of a trip that he hopes will mark the pinnacle of his time in charge of Russia, was classic Putin. He paid a visit to a leopard sanctuary, posing for the cameras with one of the big cats and pacifying it with gentle strokes, moments after it had angrily gnashed its teeth on the leg of a journalist.

After the petting session, Putin spoke of his excitement about the upcoming Games, but affected modesty when it came to the question of who would be the person to light the flame inside the main stadium during Friday’s curtain-raiser. “We have a lot of top athletes in winter sports,” said Putin. “I am not a professional, I am just an amateur.”

But even if he does not take part in the ceremony – which is rumoured to involve pyrotechnics, huge set pieces and a lavishly choreographed journey through Russian history – Putin is unlikely to be away from the centre stage for long during the next two weeks. After all, the development of Sochi has been a dream of his since the early days of his first presidency, in 2001, he admitted in a recent interview. These are Putin’s Games. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Olympic torch blasts into space

Flame not lit for leg of Sochi 2014 journey that marks first time torch will have gone outside a spacecraft in orbit

Two Russian cosmonauts will take the Olympic torch on its first ever spacewalk to showcase the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi – but for safety reasons, and perhaps to save embarrassment, it will not be lit.

Russian Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Japan’s Koichi Wakata took the torch with them on Thursday when they blasted off for the International Space Station from the Baikonur cosmodrome, which Moscow rents from Kazakhstan.

Tyurin will hand the torch to fellow cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, who are on the orbiting station, when they go on a spacewalk on Saturday.

The Olympic torch has been carried into space twice before, in 1996 and 2000, but it has never been taken outside a spacecraft.

“Our goal here is to make it look spectacular,” Kotov said before his own mission began. “We’d like to showcase our Olympic torch in space. We will try to do it in a beautiful manner. Millions of people will see it live on TV and they will see the station and see how we work.”

The torch will be brought back to Earth by Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, American astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano on 11 November. It then continues the 40,000-mile (65,000km) relay that has taken it to the North Pole on an atomic-powered ice breaker and will reach Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus, as well as the depths of Siberia’s Lake Baikal.

As well as replacing the gas flame Russian engineers have equipped the torch with a tether. “It was reworked to take it into open space … just so that it doesn’t fly away,” said Sergei Krikalev, head of the Cosmonauts’ Training Centre outside Moscow.

While the Russian-made red and silver torch is in space, the flame will remain lit on Earth.

The Soyuz craft carrying the three-man crew into space has been emblazoned with the Sochi 2014 logo and a blue and white snowflake pattern.

The arrival of the torch-bearing Soyuz will briefly swell the space station crew to nine, the most that have been on board the orbital outpost since the last US shuttle mission in 2011.

Wakata, 50, will be the first Japanese astronaut to command a crew on the space station. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Russia prepares for 40,000-mile torch relay – video

Organisers of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are hoping one of the biggest torch relays in history will set Russia’s Olympic spirit alight