Olympic torch relay visits Acropolis, 1896 Olympic Stadium (photos, video)

Leave a comment

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Olympic flame was handed to organizers of the Rio de Janeiro Games in Athens on Wednesday, 100 days before the Opening Ceremony in Brazil.

Dressed as a high priestess, actress Katerina Lehou led the brief ceremony at the Panatheniac Stadium, a horseshoe-shaped marble venue where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Lehou, who lit the flame in Ancient Olympia last week, used a torch to light a cauldron inside the Athens stadium.

The flame, placed in a lantern, was handed over to Greek Olympic Committee president Spyros Kapralos, who, in turn, passed it to Rio Games organizing head Carlos Nuzman.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is fighting impeachment over allegations of erroneous budget figures, declined an invitation to visit Greece for the lighting ceremony and start of the Olympic torch’s six-day journey around Greece.

During the Aug. 5-21 Games, Nuzman said, Brazilians would come together in celebration.

“Our mission, dear friends, is bigger than Brazil itself. We represent all the peoples of South America,” he told a crowd of several thousand Athenians.

In a highlight of the Greek torch relay, the flame made a symbolic stop Tuesday at a United Nations-run refugee camp in Athens. The torch was carried by Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al-Hussein.

It also visited the Parthenon atop the Acropolis, carried by three-time Greek Olympic champion weightlifter Pyrros Dimas.

After Wednesday’s ceremony, the flame will travel to Switzerland, where it will visit the United Nations building in Geneva and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

The flame will reach Brazil next Tuesday, starting in the capital of Brasilia. Organizers say it will reach most of the vast country’s 200 million population, covering 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles) by road and 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) by air to reach hundreds of cities and towns in a giant effort involving 12,000 torchbearers.

The torch will reach Rio’s Maracana Stadium for the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5.

“We will take the Olympic experience to every corner of our country, to every state capital,” Nuzman said. “When you arrive in Rio there will plenty of music, poetry and excitement. … Rio is ready to deliver history.”

VIDEO: Nike Greece ad uses vacated Athens 2004 Olympic venues

Images via the AP:

Pyrros Dimas

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!