News / Europe

Russia Struggles to Keep Olympic Flame Burning

Student Anatoly Chentuloev (R) and journalist Yeon Kyu-sun pose for a picture during the  the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay in Moscow Oct. 8, 2013.
Student Anatoly Chentuloev (R) and journalist Yeon Kyu-sun pose for a picture during the the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay in Moscow Oct. 8, 2013.
Reuters
The Olympic torch has been to the North Pole and traveled thousands of kilometers (miles) on the relay that will end at the Sochi Winter Games in Russia in February. The problem is, the flame keeps going out.
 
President Vladimir Putin aims to make the Games a showcase of Russia's modern face to the world 23 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. But preparations have been dogged by delays, cost overruns and criticism over issues ranging from Russia's treatment of gays, a ban on most protests in Sochi and the treatment of migrant workers on construction sites.
 
On top of that, the longest torch relay in Olympic history has been interrupted repeatedly since Putin launched it by hoisting the torch high outside the Kremlin on Oct. 6.

 It went out minutes later as a former Soviet swimming champion jogged with it through an archway into the Kremlin. In an incident broadcast live on state television, a plainclothes guard saved the day with a cigarette lighter.
 
U.S. lighter manufacturer Zippo posted a picture of the guard lighting the torch on Facebook, with the Twitter hashtag #ZippoSavestheOlympics, before threats of legal action from the International Olympic Committee prompted its removal.
 

The flame spluttered and died at least eight times in the first six days of the relay, the independent Dozhd television and Internet channel said.
 
Yulia Latynina, a journalist who has been following the planned 65,000-km (40,000-mile) relay, says the torch - made at a Siberian factory that produces submarine-launched ballistic missiles - has already gone out at least 44 times on its way to Sochi on Russia's Black Sea coast.
 
“A torch is a lot simpler than a missile - it's a big gas lighter,” Latynina said on Ekho Moskvy radio station. “Question: Do our missiles fly the way our torches burn?”
 
The flame has also, at times, burnt too fiercely.
 
A video shot in Vologda, north of Moscow, shows the flame expanding to cover the entire upper part of the torch while being held by a man dressed in the blue robe of Grandfather Frost, Russia's version of Santa Claus.
 
Asked for comment, torch relay spokesman Roman Osin said that the number of times the torch had failed was within the normal range of error and that there had been similar incidents during the relays before the London and Beijing Olympics.
 
He did not say how many times it had gone out.

No laughing matter for Putin
 
The torches were designed to withstand Russia's extreme weather conditions, including high winds and temperatures that can range from -40 C (-40 F) to 40 C (104 F).
 
“We did not have any experience in doing this so we experimented,” Viktor Filippov, deputy chief engineer at the   Krasnoyarsk Machine-building Factory, which manufactured the torches, told Reuters before the relay began.
 
“It's an overstatement to say it can keep the flame burning anywhere, but it can do that in the given temperature range.”
 
It is no laughing matter for Putin, who has staked a lot on a successful Games, but the torch has become the butt of jokes in Russia.
 
On a roadside in Kolomna, a city outside Moscow, residents greeted the torch by holding up lighters or striking matches.
 
One Twitter user suggested it was a good thing that Prometheus, the hero of Greek myth who gave fire to humanity, had not used a Sochi torch. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has used the torch's woes in his criticism of the authorities.
 
Bloggers have pointed to a similarity between the torch's design, resembling a feather of the Firebird in Russian folklore, and the label of a Soviet-era vodka brand, Russkaya.
 
At least the flame will not be a problem this week, when the torch is due to be launched to the International Space Station and then be taken on a space walk.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid