Olympic Flame passed from Greece to Sochi 2014 in celebration of communal values

Saturday, 05 October 2013
By Nick Butler at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens

The Greek and Russian flags, along with the one of the International Olympic Committee, fly in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens as Sochi 2014 prepare to receive the Olympic TorchOctober 5 - The Sochi 2014 Olympic Flame has this evening made the transition from Greek to Russian hands in a rousing Handover Ceremony here in front of large crowd, which included Karolos Papoulias, President of the Hellenic Republic. 

Although the weather was far more autumnal than that which marked the Flame Lighting Ceremony last weekend in Olympia the atmosphere in the Stadium was warm and a similar blend of colour, vibrancy and tradition.

The location in an arena which hosted the inaugural Modern Olympics in 1896 added a more atmospheric sporting feel with locals on one side of the stadium and Russians on the other almost creating a "home and away" feel.

On the other hand the presence of the National Opera of Greece performing before and throughout the Ceremony added a dose of classical grandeur.

This blend of styles was followed by a fusion of music, dancing, and speeches before the Torch was passed from Greek hands for the final time to begin its four month journey to Sochi.

The Flame is passed from HOC President Spyros Caprolos to Russias Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry KozakThe Flame is passed from HOC President Spyros Caprolos to Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak





A small but vocal Russian contingent waved the national flag as the world's largest nation's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak entered the Stadium, with shouts of "Russia Russia" being heard as he took his seat.

Just the occasional boo among the widespread cheers greeted the even louder reception for President Papoulias when his arrival shortly after began proceedings.

As if to honour the occasion the sun came out to mark his entrance alongside all the pageantry of a ceremonial march.

The Stadium then rose to its feet as one to mark both the Russian and Greek national anthems before - in deathly and almost eerie silence - the High Priestesses made their way into the arena and positioned themselves around the ceremonial altar.

At this point the silence was broken by a cacophony of roars as the final Greek Torchbearer, figure skater Panagitis Markouizos, made his way into the stadium.

Markouizos is Greece's most successful skater on the international circuit and, in a poignant link between Olympic founder and Olympic host, is coached by two former Russian champions, Vladimir Kovalev and Konstantin Kokora.

His lighting of the altar was followed by a return to more traditional music as the dance of the Priestesses passed in the same whirl of gliding, grace and beauty as that they produced on the Olympia hillside when the Flame was lit.

Ten white pigeons were released into the Athens air this time to mark the end of the dance.

Greek figure skater Panagiotis Markouizos carried the Olympic Torch into the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens before it was handed over to Sochi 2014Greek figure skater Panagiotis Markouizos carried the Olympic Torch into the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens before it was handed over to Sochi 2014





Before the handover came two speeches from Kozak, as well as Spyros Capralos, President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos.

Capralos began by describing "the overwhelming feelings of respect" he had felt on Sunday (September 29) at the Lighting Ceremony before he outlined the Flame's 2,000 kilometre journey around Greece.

He described how "people of all ages greeted with enthusiasm this symbol of Olympism and its timeless message of peace, friendship and solidarity among nations."

"For all the Greek people, the Flame is a piece of our homeland, a part of our history and a tight bond with our ancestors."

He concluded with a message for Sochi 2014.

"Dear friends from Russia, time has come for you to receive this symbol that reunites all nations and conveys the message of peace and friendship all over the world," he said.

"I am sure you have organised an impressive Torch Relay and that the journey of the Flame, all the way to the Olympic Stadium in Sochi, will be glorious.

"It is with great pleasure that I am handing over to you the Olympic Flame and wish you, on behalf of all Greeks, our very best for a most successful organisation of the Olympic Games next February in Sochi.

Kozak espoused similar themes as he described how it was "a great honour, responsibility and pleasure to be here tonight, on the land that gave birth to the European civilisation and presented the world with the Olympic Games."

The High Priestess lights the Flame at the Handover CeremonyThe High Priestess lights the Flame in part of a ceremony praised by both Capralos and Kazak



He described the journey of the Torch to Russian shores for the first time in three decades and is confident of what lies ahead.

"On this momentous day I am telling you with certainty, our country has claimed the right and will succeed in fulfilling its commitment to the international Olympic movement and will present the world with a spectacular event celebrating the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence," he said.

After explaining how, since being awarded the Games, Russia has "realised the biggest investment project in the history of the Olympic Games," he concluded on a similarly optimistic note.

"I do believe that the Olympic Games in Sochi will not only become a part of the history of the Olympic Games but will also make sufficient contribution to the development of trust, friendship and respect between people of various cultures, traditions, countries and continents," he said.

"Welcome to Russia and welcome to Sochi."

Capralos then passed the Flame to Kozak in front of the Russian contingent with appropriate gusto to mark the ending of the Ceremony.

This now also marks the end of the Greek leg of the Torch Relay for two years until the process begins again ahead of Rio 2016.

However the Russian journey is only just beginning and, after three days in Moscow, the Flame will begin a journey taking in the length and breadth of the land before arriving in Sochi for the Opening Ceremony on February 7.

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