Brazil takes Rio flame on 100-day countdown


ATHENS: Greece on Wednesday handed the Olympic flame over to Rio Games officials setting off the 100-day countdown to the August 5 opening ceremony.

“Brazil is waiting for the flame with excitement and passion,” said Rio 2016 organising committee chairman Carlos Nuzman, adding that the Games would feature “plenty of music, poetry, love”.

“Rio is ready to make history,” he said.

The ceremony took place at the historic all-marble Olympic stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Games in 1896.

For the rest of the evening, the stadium will be lit in Brazilian green and yellow, the Brazilian embassy in Athens said.

The flame was kindled on April 21 in the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera at Ancient Olympia, and carried on a week-long relay on Greek soil.

Before landing in Brasilia on May 3, it will make a brief stopover in Switzerland.

It will be presented at the United Nations office in Geneva on Friday and placed on display over the weekend at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, the seat of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Some 12,000 torchbearers will then carry the flame through over 300 Brazilian cities ahead of the opening of the summer Games on August 5.

Olympic organisers this year are including references to the migration crisis gripping Europe.

On Tuesday, a Syrian swimmer who lost his lower leg in a bombing carried the flame through an Athens refugee camp.

Ibrahim al-Hussein, 27, carried the torch through Eleonas camp, where some 1,600 asylum seekers are being given temporary shelter amid Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.

“The stopover of the flame at the refugee camp of Eleonas and Ibrahim, the Syrian athlete who carried the flame, brought to this year’s torch relay a special message of solidarity and fraternity among peoples,” said Hellenic Olympic Committee chairman Spyros Kapralos.

The IOC has also said a team of up to 10 refugees will take part at the Rio Olympics.

Some 40 refugees have been identified by the IOC as possible contenders, with a selection to be made in June, a UN refugee agency source told Agence France-Presse.

The torch harks back to the ancient Olympics, when a sacred flame burned throughout the Games. The tradition was revived in 1936 for the Berlin Games.

Brazil’s preparations have been overshadowed by the government crisis caused by accusations that President Dilma Rousseff juggled government accounts to disguise budget shortfalls during her 2014 reelection.

But Brazilian and IOC officials have insisted that preparations are ahead of schedule and will not be affected by the political upheaval.

They have also played down crime concerns and fears over the quality of water in Rio bay to be used for yachting and part of the swimming events. AFP



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