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Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lights Olympic cauldron

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With Brazilian soccer legend Pele ruled out for health reasons, there remained plenty of suspense heading into Friday’s Opening Ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. In the end another Brazilian legend, one who displayed incredible sportsmanship in a stunning Olympic moment in Athens 12 years ago, was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron.

Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was the choice to light the cauldron, making the trek up the steps at the Maracanã after receiving the flame from Brazilian basketball legend Hortencia Marcari. Brazilian tennis great Gustavo Kuerten ran the flame into the stadium, with Hortencia being second in the three-person relay to the cauldron.

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was on the verge of winning the gold medal in the Olympic marathon in Athens 12 years ago, only to be attacked by a protester and pushed to the side of the road four miles from the finish line. Instead of closing out the race with a gold medal de Lima had to settle for bronze, and occurrence that would have left many athletes fumning (and rightfully so). But de Lima handled the disruption with a level of class that impressed many, resulting in the International Olympic Committee giving him the Baron Pierre de Coubertin Award.

That grace ultimately opened the door for de Lima to receive the honor of a lifetime Friday night, as his lighting of the Olympic cauldron represents the beginning of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.

Rio 2016 Olympic torch unveiled

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The Rio Olympic torch and torch relay route were unveiled on Friday, 399 days out from the opening of the 2016 Rio Games.

The unique design of the torch incorporates “Brazilian flair,” the Rio 2016 website explains. The open segments reveal “harmonious diversity, contagious energy and exuberant nature–with the ground, sea, mountains, sky and sun represented in the colors of the Brazilian flag.” The segments will open up at the “moment of the kiss, when the flame is passed from one bearer to another.”

The torch relay will begin with the traditional flame lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece, where the Ancient Olympic Games were born. Then the torch will begin its tour of Brazil in May 2016.

Starting in the capital city of Brasilia and passing through an expected 500 cities and towns, the Olympic torch route was designed to reach as much of the Brazilian population as possible–an estimated 90 per cent of the public. Carlos Arthur Nuzman, Rio 2016 President, said, “We want to show the world the chemistry that we believe will be born when the Olympic Flame meets the warmth of the Brazilian people.”

The torch relay will end on August 5th, when it will light the Olympic Cauldron at Maracana Stadium during the Opening Ceremony. The relay will last between 90 and 100 days, allowing for technical breaks or special photo events.

The Olympic torch relay creates excitement for the upcoming Games and allows the citizens of the host country to participate in the festivities. Here are some photos of past Olympic torches and relays:

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games torch, held by Prince Albert II of Monaco (L) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) (Photo by SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
source: Getty Images
The London 2012 Summer Olympics torch, held by LOCOG Chair and former Olympian Lord Sebastian Coe. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics torch, held by Jean Toussignant, one of the members of the assembly team from Bombardier. (Photo by ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/Getty Images)
The Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics torch. (Photo by Osports/Getty Images)
The Turin 2006 Winter Olympics torch, held by TOROC president Valentino Castellani. (Photo by ROBERTO BARRETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
source: Getty Images
The 2004 Athens Summer Olympics torch relay on June 7, 2004 in Seoul, Korea. The Olympic Flame travels to 34 cities in 27 countries en route to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics torch, held by Lance Armstrong. (Photo by TODD WARSHAW/AFP/Getty Images)
The 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics torch, carried by Olympic decathalete Rafer Johnson. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Allspo)


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Olympian’s Sydney 2000 torch missing after friend mistakenly drives off with it on top of car

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It was a common mistake made to lose an uncommon item.

A friend of Australian 1984 Olympic long jumper Robyn Lorraway borrowed Lorraway’s torch from the Sydney 2000 Olympic relay to show her school class. That torch is now missing after the friend placed it on top of her car and drove off.

Lorraway called it “an honest mistake.”

“A lot of people may have placed something on top of the car and driven off before realizing,” said Lorraway, who finished sixth in the 1984 long jump won, according to Australian reports.

“I have great hope that the torch has been found by someone nearby and will be handed to the police as soon as possible.”

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