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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs