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Olympic Torch On An Eventful Journey Across Russia

The Olympic torch isn't handed from person to person along the relay--the flame is passed from torch to torch. Image:
The Olympic torch isn’t handed from person to person along the relay–the flame is passed from torch to torch. Image:

It’s customary for the country that will host the Olympic games to send the Olympic flame on a vast relay.

The flame is passed from person to person, travelling around the country, often accompanied by cheering crowds watching the runners along the route.

For the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, the torch is on a journey like no other.

It has moved by runner, troika, reindeer sleigh, dragon boat, go kart, snowmobile, skier, snowboarder, ice-swimmer, speed skater and even on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker (ship).

It has visited the North Pole and it has been plunged into Lake Baikal, the deepest freshwater lake in the world.

It has visited space—when it was sent up to the International Space Station.

But it has been a journey with more than a few bumps along the way.

For one thing, the flame keeps going out.

That’s not great, because the fire is symbolic; the fire for the torch is taken from the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece, and transferred to the host city before each Olympic Games.

Fortunately, however, there are back-up flames, with fire from the same source. When the torch goes out, it is relit using one of the back-up flames.

During the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, according to Wikipedia, the flame went out and someone relit it using his cigarette lighter. That flame was quickly doused and relit using the flame that had been brought from Greece.

A similar incident happened this year in Russia, just after it was lit by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The flame went out and someone relit it using his lighter, which happened to be made by a well-known lighter company called Zippo. Zippo tried to claim it had “saved the Olympics” and even bragged about it on its Twitter feed—until the International Olympic Committee threatened to sue Zippo.

While it’s not uncommon for the Olympic flame to go out accidentally during a relay, it’s been happening quite a lot in Russia. One journalist said the flame went out at least 44 times in the first two months of the Russian relay.

Of course, it’s worse when the opposite happens—too much flame. During the torch’s current run in Russia, some of its fuel began leaking while it was being run by Pytor Makarchuk, a former Olympic bobsledder. The fuel splashed onto his left sleeve, and lit his jacket on fire very briefly—it was quickly put out by a trained relay assistant who was there in case of accident. Makarchuk was not hurt.

By the time the Russian relay is finished, it will have gone more than 56,000 kilometres in 123 days, having been carried by 14,000 torchbearers.

The flame will be used to kick off the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 7 in Sochi, Russia.

Related links

There are many terrific, kid-friendly facts about the Olympic torch and the Russian relay on the Sochi Olympics website.

By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The torch relay is a tradition that has been celebrated for many years. What traditions do you and your friends or family observe? How do the traditions add to and help commemorate special events?

Reading Prompt: Elements of Style
All writers have their own style. A style can be formed in many ways, including: word choices, the types of sentences, and voice.

The author of today’s article doesn’t only share the facts of the story–she shares her style too. Underline different parts of today’s story that reveal and demonstrate her style. Be prepared to explain why you made your choices.

Identify some elements of style, including voice, word choice, and different types of sentences, and explain how they help readers understand texts (OME, Reading: 2.4).

Identify various elements of style – including word choice and the use of similes, personification, comparative adjectives, and sentences of different types, lengths, and structures – and explain how they help communicate meaning (OME, Reading: 2.4).

Identify various elements of style – including foreshadowing, metaphor, and symbolism – and explain how they help communicate meaning and enhance the effectiveness of texts (OME, Reading: 2.4).

Grammar Feature: En Dash ( – )
An en dash is a punctuation mark that can be used by writers to create compound words. A compound word is one that joins two words to make a new one. Today’s article contains several compound words that use an en dash, e.g. back-up, ice-swimmer, and nuclear-powered.

Create 4 compound words of your own and remember to use an en dash!