The first Sochi Olympic torchbearer will be an Alpine skier.
As is custom, a Greek athlete has the honors. Ioannis Antoniou, 18, will carry the torch in Olympia, Greece, on Sept. 29, the International Olympic Committee announced Friday.
The flame will reach Russia on Oct. 7, four months before the opening ceremony, and travel about 40,000 miles, the longest relay in Winter Olympic history. It will run through more than 2,900 towns and settlements (and go into space Nov. 7) via more than 14,000 torch bearers in car, plane, train and reindeer sleigh.
Here’s more detail on what will happen in Olympia on Sept. 29, via Olympic.org:
The ceremony will see several ‘priestesses’ perform a traditional celebration at the Temple of Hera in which the torch will be kindled by the light of the sun using a parabolic mirror.
Antoniou, the son of two physical education teachers, has been skiing since age 4. He finished 75th in the giant slalom at the 2013 World Championships (Greece is not an Alpine ski power).
Greece has sent at least one Alpine skier to every Olympics beginning with 1964, its best finish a 23rd by Vassilis Dimitriadis in the men’s slalom in 2006, according to sports-reference.com. Dimitriadis was the first torchbearer for the 2010 Olympic torch relay. Greece has never won a medal at the Winter Games.
“The Olympic torch relay is one of the most important and magical Olympic occasions,” said Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO of Sochi 2014, on Olympic.org. “It continues the build-up of excitement ahead of the Games and, as well as spreading the Olympic values to the whole country. We will be creating, as a nation, an important part of Russian history.”