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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid