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Torch relay off to bad start

Published October 6, 2013 11:34 pm

Olympics • Flame goes out as Russians kick off trek to Sochi.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Moscow • Russian President Vladimir Putin ceremoniously lit the Olympic flame on Red Square on Sunday, but the four-month relay to Sochi for the Winter Games got off to a rocky start when one of the torches went out.

The Olympic flame, which was lit a week ago in Greece and flown to Moscow earlier Sunday, kept burning in a cauldron on Red Square.

The glitch occurred when a torch bearer ran through a long passageway leading into the Kremlin, which apparently created a wind tunnel, extinguishing the flame. A man standing along the route, most likely part of the presidential security service, pulled out a lighter and the flame leaped back to life.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi organizing committee, said on Twitter that the problem was that the valve on the torch had not been opened fully.

The torch bearer, Shavarsh Karapetyan, 60, was a champion swimmer for the Soviet Union who once saved 20 passengers from a trolleybus that had fallen into a reservoir.

The torch relay will stay in Moscow for the next three days, with hundreds of athletes, cultural figures and others, including Prince Albert II of Monaco, taking part.

The flame will then begin its journey across Russia, traveling from the western exclave of Kaliningrad to the easternmost point just across the Bering Strait from Alaska, before swinging back through the vast country to Sochi in time for the opening ceremony on Feb. 7.

For most of the 65,000- kilometer (39,000-mile) trip, the flame will travel by plane, train, car and even reindeer sleigh, safely encased inside a lantern. But 14,000 torch bearers also will take part in the relay at the more than 130 stops along the way.