The Olympic flame has been officially welcomed to Russia, with celebrations taking place in Moscow’s Red Square ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay.
The flame was delivered to Russia by a delegation headed by Dmitry Kozak, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Chernyshenko, the President of the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee, and Russia’s six-time Olympic speed skating champion Lidiya Skoblikova, who had received the flame during an official handover ceremony in Athens, Greece.
The flame was then transported to Red Square in Moscow, where it was passed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who lit a celebration cauldron to mark the start of the Olympic Torch Relay, which will end at the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi on 7 February.
“Today is a joyous and momentous day,” said President Putin. “The Olympic flame – the symbol of the planet's main sports event, the symbol of peace and friendship – has arrived in Russia, and in a few minutes it will be on its way around our huge country.”
Following the lighting of the celebration cauldron, ten Torchbearers ran with the Olympic flame around the grounds of Moscow's Kremlin, with junior figure skaters Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin, who won silver medals at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, completing the first leg.
Other Torchbearers included Paralympic discus and shot put champion Alexey Ashapatov, 14-year-old piano virtuoso Daniel Kharitonov, prima ballerina Diana Vishneva, and 17-time fin-swimming world champion Shavarsh Karapetyan.
The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay will continue its journey around Moscow on 7 and 8 October. In total, 593 Torchbearers will carry the Olympic flame through the Russian capital, with celebrations taking place in Gorky Park, the Vorobyev Mountains, the Luzhniki Stadium and Europe Square.
In total, the Olympic flame will cover more than 65,000 kilometres during the 123-day Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay, as it visits every region of Russia, travelling by car, train, plane, Russian troika and even reindeer sleigh. It will be carried by more than 14,000 Torchbearers as it visits important historic, cultural and picturesque areas of Russia, including Yasnaya Polyana, the Avachinsky Volcanoes and the Kizhi Museum Reserve.
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. More than 30,000 volunteers are also expected to participate in the Relay.
Find out more about the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay Presenting Partners at http://torchrelay.sochi2014.com/en/Partners
More information on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay can be found at http://torchrelay.sochi2014.com/en/