The seventh week of the 123-day Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay came to a close in the heart of Eastern Siberia on Sunday, with Irkutsk becoming the 65th Russian city to welcome the Olympic flame since the start of the relay on 7 October.
Among the 227 Torchbearers in Irkutsk were Olympic track and field silver medallists Irina Belova and Natalya Ivanova, while Denis Matsuev, a world-renowned virtuoso pianist, lit the celebration cauldron at the end of the festivities.
Earlier in the week, the Olympic flame had been taken underwater in Lake Baikal – the world’s deepest lake – and been carried by traditional Buryat horsemen through the streets of Ulan-Ude, where the final Torchbearer was Pavel Yakovlev, who competed in the 1,500m at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
“As a participant in the Olympic Games in Moscow, I attended the lighting of the Olympic flame and did not even think that 33 years later I would hold the Olympic torch in my hands,” he said.
Over the last seven days, the Olympic flame has also been welcomed in Birobidzhan, Belogorsk, Blagoveshchensk and Chita, as it visits every region of the country on its way to the Opening Ceremony of Sochi 2014 on 7 February 2014.
The route has been designed to ensure that around 90 per cent of Russia's population will be within an hour of the Relay at some stage, allowing approximately 130 million residents to participate in the event.
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