With 65 days to go before the opening ceremony, the Olympic flame arrived in Italy yesterday for the Winter Games in Turin. The flame, held in a small lantern, was flown in from Athens aboard an Italian military transport plane.
"It's very emotional," Turin organizing chief Valentino Castellani said at Rome's Ciampino Airport. "We are ready to start the Games. We have waited six years, naturally we are still working, finishing up the buildings and training personnel, but we are ready."
The flame will be carried across Italy in a torch relay before lighting the caldron to open the Olympics on Feb. 10.
Castellani held the lantern aloft on the airport tarmac as a military band played the Olympic anthem. The flame then was whisked by motorcade to the presidential Quirinal Palace.
Today, Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi will pass the flame to the first torchbearer in Italy -- Stefano Baldini, the marathon winner at last year's Summer Games in Athens.
The relay will head straight for the nearby Trevi Fountain and pass by other Rome landmarks before arriving at the Vatican for a blessing by Pope Benedict XVI.
In all, the relay will cover 7,022 miles and involve 10,000 torchbearers, gondolas, a Ferrari sports car and a cavalry regiment.
Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj, Italy soccer coach Marcello Lippi, New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre and all Italian gold medalists from the Athens and 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics will take part in the relay.
The final torchbearer, whose name has not yet been revealed, will light the flame at the opening ceremony in Turin. Skiing great Alberto Tomba is considered the favorite for that honor.
-- From News Services