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City news, 21.03.2008 10:15

City To Get Olympic Torch Relay

St. Petersburg will be the only city in Russia and one of only three European cities to host the Olympic torch relay ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

The torch will be carried through the city on April 5. London and Paris are the other European cities through which the Olympic torch will be carried.

“It’s a great honor for St. Petersburg to host such a serious world sports event,” said Vyacheslav Chazov, head of the St. Petersburg Sports and Physical Culture Committee.

“I think St. Petersburg has received the honor because it is known not only as the country’s cultural capital, but also as the home of a whole set of magnificent sporting achievements,” Chazov said.

Chazov said at least 81 Olympic champions live in St. Petersburg, and 44 of the city’s sportsmen will take part in the Olympics this year.

The Olympic torch relay in St. Petersburg will cover 20 kilometers, beginning at Ploshchad Pobedy and passing famous sights including the Mariinsky Theater, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Bronze Horseman and the Peter and Paul Fortress. It will end its journey on Palace Square next to the State Hermitage Museum.

Among the 80 participants of the relay will be many Russian Olympic champions, including ice-skater Yevgeny Plyushchenko and speed skater Svetlana Zhurova, who will complete the 3 1/2-hour relay. Shot-putter Galina Zybina, 77, who won three medals in the Helsinki (1952), Melbourne (1956) and Tokyo (1964) Olympic games will begin the relay.

The honor of carrying the Olympic torch will also go to Russian actors, including the 73-year old actress Alisa Freindlikh. The other torch-bearers will be representatives of public organizations and sponsors.

In comments to the media about a possible boycott of the Beijing Games over a recent crackdown in Tibet, Chazov said “sports and politics should not be confused.”

“We should not mix sports and politics for politics’ sake,” Chazov said. “Sportsmen all over the world train for the Olympics with all their strength, and some have an opportunity to take part in it only once in their lives. Therefore they should not suffer because of political moments,” he said.

Chazov said it was sad that the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980 and Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 suffered because of politics. The U.S. boycotted the former as a response to the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, while the Soviets struck back by boycotting the U.S.-held games four years later.

This year’s Olympic torch relay is to take place in 19 cities on all five continents from April 1 through May 3. On May 4 the torch arrives in China.

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