October 30 - The torch for the 2010 Winter Olympics is due to arrive in Victoria this morning and thousands of people, including a host of dignitaries, are expected at the British Columbia Legislature to welcome it to Canada.


The Olympic flame has its own row of seats on the Canadian military plane that is carrying it from Athens, where Vancouver 2010 officials collected it.


In a moving ceremony held at the Panathenian Stadium, where the first modern Olympics was hosted in 1896, the Sacred flame finished its journey around Greece and began its trip to Canada.


In the presence of Greek President, Karolos Papoulias, the Governor General of Canada Michaelle Jean, Greek Minister of Culture Pavlos Geroulanos and other officials, Niki Georgiadou, a Greek figure skating champion who is a student at Toronto, entered the Stadium as the last torchbearer on Greek soil.


Then actress Maria Nafpliotou dressed as High Priestess accompanied by other 14 priestesses kindled the torch and gave it to Greek Olympic Committee President Spyros Kapralos.


Before handing it to the John Furlong, the chief executive of Vancouver 2010, wishing it best luck, Kapralos stressed that "the Sacred Light of Olympism always encountered people willing to adopt the eternal messages of love, peace, friendship and solidarity among people".


In his address Furlong replied: "Today we accept the Flame with humility, respect and joy.


"As we embark on the longest domestic relay in Olympic history, we take with us the knowledge that the flame has the power to unite, inspire and bring harmony to the world.


"We look forward to welcoming you all in Vancouver with glowing hearts".


The precious fire is encased in a miner's lantern and will transfer to a cauldron before it begins the longest torch-relay in Canadian history.

There are actually four flames and six lanterns aboard the flight - the logistics of the coming 106 day relay mean organisers must have several lanterns to ensure one is always ready to go.

They were all lit from the flame that was ignited in Olympia, Greece last week and they all boarded the flight to Victoria with a champagne toast from the head of the Vancouver Games.


Furlong also led the 80 or so people accompanying the flame in a rendition of "O Canada."

By the time the Olympic flame arrives in Vancouver on February 12, it will have been carried 28,000 miles, to more than a Canadian communities, by more than 12,000 people.



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