On Monday, the Olympic Torch Relay continued on its journey to make its next stop in Italy. The sundrenched city of Rome greeted the Flame, for the first time for 44 years, with honours in Fiumicino airport where it had been flown to from Barcelona.
ATHENS 2004 representative Spyros LAMBRIDIS gave the Flame to the Greek Ambassador in Rome, Anastasios MITSIALIS, who in turn passed it on to the Mayor of Fiumicino, in the presence of the General Secretary of the Italian Olympic Committee, Raffaele PAGNOZZI.
After the national anthems of both countries had been played, the Flame was carried to the Stadio Olimpico, where the Olympic Games took place in 1960, and the Torch Relay began at 14:00. A total of 123 Torchbearers, with many Italian celebrity athletes among them, including Emanuela PIERANTOZZI, the Olympic judoka gold medallist, and Davide TIZZANO, twice gold Olympic medallist for Canoe/Kayak (in 1988 and 1996), covered 48 kilometres of streets in the Italian capital.
Many of Rome's famous monuments formed the backdrop to the Flame as it sped across the city - landmarks such as the Via Veneto, the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Forum of the emperors Augustus, Nero and Trajan, Caesar, the Palazzo Venezia, the Fontana di Trevi (memorable from Fellini's Dolce Vita), the Piazza di Spagna, Castel Sant' Angelo and the Vatican City, to end its trajectory at the Equestrian venue of the Piazza di Siena, in its idyllic setting of umbrella pines opposite the Villa Borghese. Here the altar was lit by the last Torchbearer, Alessandra Sensini, a 1996 and 2000 Olympic victor in sailing, who will be representing her country at Athens this August.
The Italian sector of the Torch Relay closed with a simple ceremony and with cultural events attended by many spectators. The Mayor of Rome, Walter VELTRONI, said: "We thank ATHENS 2004 for the honour bestowed on us. The Flame is a universal symbol, and we are looking forward to receiving it again in two years' time for the Torino Winter Olympic Games".
ATHENS 2004 representative, Spyros Lambiridis replied: "We are particularly pleased that the Flame's message has been as well received in Rome as on the other five continents. We thank Rome for its warm reception of the Flame for the Athens Olympic Games and we wish them the very best for the Winter Games in Turin".
The Flame goes onward today, to arrive in Munich today (29 June) and in Berlin on Wednesday (30 June).