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VOLGOGRAD, January 20, 22:35 /ITAR-TASS/. Yelena Isinbayeva, the two-time Olympic pole-vault champion and the future mayor of an Olympic town in Sochi, lit the flame of the Olympic cauldron at the Volgograd Palace of Sport on Monday together with Olympic Champion Tatyana Lebedeva and Volgograd Governor Sergei Bozhenov.
The flame-lighting ceremony watched by some 2,000 spectators marked an end to the lengthiest 46-kilometer-long Volgograd lap of the Olympic torch relay race.
“Today is a historic day,” Isinbayeva said, addressing the spectators.
“Today you are witnessing what may never repeat in our lives again! Go in for sport, love sport and inspire peers with your positive energy! Please, continue our traditions. We go while you stay!” Isinbayeva went on to say.
“This flame is going to be lit in Sochi after some time. Let the warmth of our hearts warm the soul of every athlete so that they feel that these games are their Games. Love sport! Love Volgograd! Love Russia!” Tatyana Lebedeva, who had brought the torch to the Palace of Sport, said at the ceremony.
A concert is currently under way in the Palace in which more than 20 on-stage performance groups and creative teams are taking part. According to clarified reports of the Sochi-2014 organizing committee, 257 torch bearers took part in the Volgograd lap. They included well-known athletes, coaches, doctors, teachers, art workers and even Itar-Tass Director General Sergei Mikhailov.
“I am very glad to be here to support the city which has seen two tragic events recently. Naturally, all this is symbolic. I hope that none of the enemies will be able to affect the Olympic Games. The Olympics will pass well against all the odds,” Mikhailov said.
“I am very happy indeed! I feel wonderful! The Olympic relay race is an excellent project. It was planned wisely as a large-scale event. It is very important for the country’s unity,” Mikhailov went on to say.
Many people wanted to take a photo with the director general. So they approached him during a short stop. “I will keep the torch but you are welcome to pose for pictures with me,” Mikhailov said, smilingly.
On Tuesday, January 21, the Olympic flame relay race will move to the Rostov region where its route will lie through three cities: Novocherkassk, Shakhtam and Rostov-on-Don.
A sixty-five thousand kilometer-long Olympic torch relay race kicked off in Moscow on October 7. The torch is supposed to travel to 2,900 cities and populated localities in Russia before it reaches Sochi where the Winter Olympic Games will open on February 7.