Nick Butler
Nick Butler Olympic Stadium 2 July 24 2013 1Wandering around the track before the Sochi 2014 Olympic Handover Ceremony - chuntering incoherently to myself no doubt about my inability to navigate the Greek metro - I experienced a rare moment of lucidity.

Last week at the Flame Lighting Ceremony I stood on the Olympian hillside at the home of the Ancient Olympic Games. Now this week I am at the home of the Modern ones - on the very Panathenaic Stadium track where Spyridon Louis won the first Olympic marathon 117 years ago.

Such is this life of privilege on Torch Relay patrol.

Far greater than its ability to satisfy ceremony attending journalists however, is the Relay's ability to provide memories and opportunities for all people from all backgrounds and from all countries.

The Relay, and in particular the two Ceremonies so far, have done this in such a traditional and almost effortless way.

While the Flame Lighting Ceremony at least had the difficulty of a long drive to Ancient Olympia the Handover Ceremony - metro incompetence aside - had not even that handicap.

Greek figure skating champion Panagiotis Markouizos lights the cauldron during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Handover CeremonyGreek figure skating champion Panagiotis Markouizos lights the cauldron during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Handover Ceremony

As a mixture of Olympic enthusiasts, locals, and curious tourists took their seats, there was no mad rush, no ticket touts on the gate and no intricate seating system.

The long, stone corridor which wound its way to the press room was anything but modern until you would suddenly pop out in the relatively hi-tech media room in an image that reminded me of  the James Bond film The Spy who Loved Me.

Out of the most historical of settings - the Pyramids of Egypt I believe - Bond stumbles upon the most state-of-the-art of hidden rooms containing an alliance of British and Soviet secret service. Modern features hidden away in an ancient setting in the same way.

Back in Greece and two hours later the same corridor had transformed into a bustling hub of back stage preparation as the stadium gradually adopted an atmosphere blending that of a village fete with an international sporting event.

The James Bond imagery however remained. The difference was that instead of an Anglo-Soviet partnership in a Cold War era conflict, it was a Greco-Russian alliance combating the Olympic themes of peace and friendship.

Like last week there was no commercialism, needless advertising and tacky memorabilia on show. Perish the thought, there was also no "kiss-cam" or "bongo-cam" as the grotesque Americanisms which are ruining British sport stayed blissfully absent.

In fact, except for the much cooler weather and the substitution of International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach for the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolas Papoulias, all of the Ancient Olympic hillside charm remained unblemished in Athens.

This undiminished charm of entertainment in its most pure and traditional form is the message that shines through about the Greek Torch Relay as a whole. Children, athletes and everyone in between has joined together to celebrate both the past and the present.

Not even a political context which, with the clampdown against Golden Dawn politicians, has arguably deteriorated even more in the last week could dampen the spirits. Nor could the torrential rain: which may have flooded the streets but not the ambitions of the participants.

One of these was Greco-American Matthew Hotos - nominated for his work for a charity targeting breast cancer – who was carrying an Olympic Torch for the third time after  doing so previously before Athens 2004 and London 2012.

Torchbearer Matthew Hotos carried the Flame on Tuesday midway through its six day journey around GreeceTorchbearer Matthew Hotos lights the Flame on Tuesday midway through its six day journey around Greece

"Even though the host country is different every time, there is no bigger honour and mystic then carrying the torch in Greece," he said. "You feel a connection with the Ancient Games and feel that you are continuing the passing of the flame through the ages as the next generation ahead of you will do - a tradition that will continue on and on.

"I always get nervous before my run.I have that butterfly feeling in my stomach because you know that for 300 meters all eyes are on you - it is such an overwhelming honour and privilege that you are in awe of what is happening. You hear the cheers and congratulations and for a minute you become the local celebrity."

It is this ability to make the ordinary seem extraordinary, and the normal person the celebrity, that is this great charm of the Relay.

Unlike Hotos and colleagues at insidethegames, the closest I got to the London 2012 Relay was a rainy weekend in Durham. Spending hours huddled shivering under an umbrella - or not in my case - in summer temperatures which can only be found in the North East of England waiting to see gymnast turned television personality Matt Baker troupe in Torch in hand.

Despite almost catching pneumonia by the time of his delayed arrival I was soon setting my alarm for the following morning to see the Torch leave the city in the hand of another sporting star, cricketer Paul Collingwood, with my mood of excitement for the pending Games suitably enhanced.

In the case of Britain it is easy to forget it was the Torch Relay which destroyed the ambivalence surrounding the Games. Before the Relay: headlines surrounded cost, security threats and predictions of failure. After it the mood of what the Mayor of London Boris Johnson memorably described as the "Geiger counter of Olympomania" had been set in motion never to be extinguished.

By all accounts the success in Greece, despite the political woe and suspiciously "Durham-like" weather, the Torch has done the same thing and lifted the spirits of the country.

With the handover to Sochi 2014 now complete we can expect more of the same in the weeks and months ahead on Russia soil. A four month route encompassing 83 regions, journeying by reindeer, sledge and hot air balloon and travelling to the North Pole and Outer Space, it is fair to see that the focus is on scale rather than subtlety. With a country the size of Russia there appears little choice.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak holds aloft the Olympic Torch after it has been passed to Sochi 2014Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak holds aloft the Olympic Torch after it has been passed to Sochi 2014

Yet the key point is that like in Britain and Greece, and Canada and China beforehand each host country adds its own charm and characteristics to a Torch Relay which is defined by its ability to adapt to all terrains. Beginning in Moscow with a visit to the Red Square the Russian leg will provide excitement at every turn.

However, like in James Bond's The Spy who Loved Me there will also be the chance for Russia to work together with others so as to best display the Olympic themes.

After the success of today's Handover in another mystifying yet satisfying ceremony, there is every hope that this is what will occur over the coming months before the Opening Ceremony on February 7.

With all the great history that Russia, like Greece, has to offer, there will also be every chance for more moments of lucidity for those mindful of the history of this great event along the way.

Nick Butler is a reporter for insidethegames