MOSCOW, October 7 (R-Sport) - The four-month, 65,000-kilometer torch relay ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games kicked off Monday with synchronized swimmer Anastasia Davydova running with the flame across Moscow’s Red Square.
President Vladimir Putin welcomed the flame on Red Square on Sunday before it was taken through the grounds of the Kremlin, but Sochi 2014 organizers regard Monday’s first leg as the official start to the 123-day relay.
In addition to five-time Olympic champion Davydova, other torchbearers Monday include Prince Albert II of Monaco, legendary figure skater Irina Rodnina and double Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Svetlana Khorkina.
"Now it feels like the Olympics have already started," Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov said after running with the torch. "This sort of thing happens once in a lifetime, especially in your home country. It's more than a victory."
After a two-day circuit of Moscow, the flame will head north to St. Petersburg, before being flown to Russia’s Far East, eventually 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 more than 2,900 towns in Russia’s 83 regions, the torch will make its way back into European Russia, winding down through the Caucasus to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for the opening ceremony.
Other high points on the relay route include a trip up Russia’s highest mountain, Elbrus, in sub-zero temperatures and the sending of an unlit torch into space.
That torch will later be used to light the cauldron at Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony February 7.