While officials, media, and athletes continue to squabble over the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Olympics was ceremoniously put into motion in a much quieter setting thousands of miles away. The Olympic flame was lit in traditional fashion in southern Greece last week, signaling the countdown to the 22nd Winter Games. Per tradition, the flame was ignited by the sun’s rays.
“The Olympic Games … should inspire the people of the world and especially the political authorities by showing them that quarrels and conflicts can be addressed with peaceful means,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said. Bach was in attendance for the ceremony, according to CBC News.
Over the next four months, the flame will make its way across the nine time zones of Russia. The torch will cover over 40,000 miles in Russia alone, traveling by foot mostly, but also by more inventive methods such as hot air balloon, dog sled, and nuclear-powered ice breaker. The torch will even make a brief trip to space on November 7, according to CBC.
The torch lighting comes amidst more reports from the Associated Press about athletes opposing Russia’s stance on homosexuality and its influence on the Games. Still, the torch lighting is an important milestone in the Olympic process, as it almost certainly ensures the IOC’s backing of the Olympic Games in Sochi.
The first torch bearer is 18-year-old Greek alpine skier Ioannis Antoniou, and the first Russian involved in the torch relay will be NHL star Alex Ovechkin.