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The Olympic Torch Takes Off
By Alexandra Cale

Italian cyclist Paolo Bettini carries the Olympic torch in Torino on December 15, 2005.
Italian cyclist Paolo Bettini carries the Olympic torch in Torino on December 15, 2005.
(Photo: Cor Vos/Action Press/Zuma Press )
The Torino 2006 Olympic Torch Relay has officially begun! The torch kicked off its 64-day tour in Rome on December 8. As it travels a total of 7,012.5 miles, it will pass through 140 Italian cities.

"Whether male or female, young or old, able-bodied or disabled, high-level athlete or amateur; whether we live in a wealthy or a developing country, the flame unites us all," said Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.

This year's torch has a unique style. Its aerodynamic design is a modern version of the traditional wooden torch. It is made of aluminum, steel, and copper, and its flame will never go out. The torch can withstand rain, snow, and strong winds up to 120 kilometers per hour!

Nearly 12,000 torches have been made for the relay, and 10,001 people will have the opportunity to be torchbearers. In the past, world-renowned athletes like Carl Lewis and Pelé have raised the torch in the Olympic spirit.

Not all torchbearers are famous. In fact, some are not even athletes. People from around the world will participate along with numerous citizens of the host country. Italian candidates must fulfill only two simple requirements: They must live in the province of Italy that they wish to represent as a torchbearer, and they must share the Olympic values of unity and peace among peoples, loyalty, courage, humanity, and solidarity.

The torch will travel through well-known cities like Florence, Pisa, Milan, and Naples, as well as many other smaller cities, before making its final stop in Torino on February 10. President Rogge called the torch "a thread of passion which will run through this country."


map of the torch route
(Map by Jim McMahon)

Photos, left to right: © Rick Rickman/NewSport/NewSport/Corbis; © Joe Cavaretta/AP Wide World.