Putin launches Olympic torch relay for Sochi Games

BBC reporter Steve Rosenberg: "Russia's president strode out of the Kremlin to greet the Olympic flame. The Sochi winter games are Vladimir Putin's pet project"

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken part in a ceremony in Moscow to launch the torch relay for next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The torch will go on a 123-day journey covering some 65,000km (40,000 miles) before the Games start in the Black Sea resort on 7 February.

The torch's journey will include a trip into space.

But the relay got off to a rocky start when the flame briefly went out during the loop through the Kremlin.

A security guard had to re-light it with a cigarette lighter.

Mr Putin said the Games would show Russia's "respect for equality and diversity".

The run-up to the Games has so far been marred by controversy over a new Russian law that restricts the spread of information about homosexuality, as well as allegations by rights groups that authorities have rounded up migrant workers who helped build the Games venues in Sochi.

'The way we love it'

The Olympic flame had been flown in from Greece after being lit last Sunday at the birthplace of the ancient Games.

The sun's rays were used to light the Olympic flame during a ceremony last Sunday in Greece

Hoisting the flame in Moscow, Mr Putin declared in a ceremony shown live on television that "our shared dream is becoming reality".

He said the Games would show "respect for equality and diversity - ideals that are so intertwined with the ideals of the Olympic movement itself".

Mr Putin said the relay would show off Russia "the way that it is and the way we love it".

"Today is a joyous and momentous day," he said. "The Olympic flame - the symbol of the planet's main sports event, the symbol of peace and friendship - has arrived in Russia, and in a few minutes it will be on its way around our huge country."

On its journey the flame will:

  • Travel to the North Pole on an atomic-powered icebreaker
  • Ascend Europe's highest peak, Mt Elbrus
  • Be taken to the depths of Lake Baikal in Siberia
  • Be taken on a spacewalk (unlit) at the International Space Station.

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