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Olympic Flame To Go Globetrotting

Head of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki speaks during the presentation of the torch relay route for the Olympic Games, in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2003,
AP
The Olympic flame will make unprecedented visits to South America and Africa in its global journey from the games' ancient birthplace.

The torch also will stop in Istanbul, Turkey, where dozens died in recent terrorist bombings, heightening security fears in Athens for the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.

"The ancient and modern symbolisms of the flame — the values of peace, truce, security, brotherhood, cooperation — are more relevant today than ever," Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Athens Organizing Committee, said Wednesday.

Following the lighting at Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the games 3,000 years ago, the torch will pass through all former Summer Olympic cities — from Berlin, where the torch relay was first introduced in 1936, to Sydney.

The torch will be in the United States on June 16-19 — in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta and New York.

Organizers said they will propose to the International Olympic Committee on Thursday that the torch be lit March 25 — Greek independence day and the day on the Julian calendar the first modern Olympics opened in Athens in 1896. Under the Gregorian — the calendar mostly used today — the Athens Games opened April 6, 1896.

Under the proposal, the flame will travel seven days through southern Greece and will then burn outside the all-marble stadium that hosted the first modern games until June 4. Then it will head to Australia.

The 2000 host will begin the relay's international stage and the first runner there will be 400-meter gold medalist Cathy Freeman, who lit the Olympic flame in Sydney.

The flame will then visit Asia and Africa before crossing the Atlantic to the Americas. Then it will zigzag through Europe to return home. Beijing, the 2008 host, is on the global route that will end in Athens on Aug. 13.

More than 3,600 torchbearers will carry the flame on its global journey, for 78 days outside Greece and covering about 48,500 miles. It will travel by air and sea, as well as by car, bicycle, motorcycle and wheelchair.

Stops will include some cities that bid for the 2004 Olympics: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the relay's maiden visit to South America; Cape Town, South Africa, during the flame's first trip to that continent; and Istanbul.

The torch is lit before each Olympics by the sun's rays in a concave mirror in a ceremony at Ancient Olympia.

By Theodora Tongas