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Sochi 2014 to have longest torch relay

Posted on Oct 07, 05:15PM | IANS

Sochi 2014 organisers Sunday unveiled the route for the longest torch relay in Winter Olympic history, taking in a distance more than one and a half times the circumference of the Earth.

The route around Russia, the world's largest country - revealed exactly a year before the flame is delivered from Ancient Olympia - measures 65,000 km and stretches from the western exclave of Kaliningrad to the frozen wastes of Chukotka in the Far East.

"The Sochi 2014 relay has a mission of great responsibility, to unite the whole country, and in the process to rediscover the diversity and beauty of Russia, first of all for Russians themselves," Sochi 2014 president Dmitry Chernyshenko said.

"The torch relay is one of the most important events associated with the Games."

"It is about emotions, which are no less heated than Olympic competition itself; it is the history of Russia, which we are creating together as an entire nation."

After the flame arrives from Greece, it begins its 123-day odyssey in Moscow, spiralling out from the capital before heading east and looping around the Kamchatka Peninsula, down to Vladivostok and back across southern Siberia via Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake.

On its way through 83 towns and cities, one for every region of the country, the torch makes its way back into European Russia, eventually winding down to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for the Opening Ceremony Feb 7, 2014.

"For one day, every city where the relay passes through will be a capital of the Olympic flame, and this is a unique chance for these places to put themselves on the map," Chernyshenko said.

More than 14,000 torchbearers and 30,000 volunteers will accompany the flame, which organisers claim within an hour's travel of 90 percent of the 141 million population.

As Russia covers roughly one seventh of the world's landmass, the flame will need a little transport help getting around.

Planes, trains and buses are on hand, and even the Russian "troika", a traditional sleigh pulled by three horses, is to be deployed to cover a 534 km distance each day to complete the torch relay on time.

Vancouver 2010 claimed the previous record, with 12,000 torchbearers covering some 45,000 kilometres.

There was no word of earlier claims that the torch might be flown to the International Space Station.