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15 July 2004, 09:54 am
Torch Relay
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Athens 2004

Just a few weeks ago the Olympic flame kindled the altars in New York, London, Paris and the largest cities in the world. On Tuesday, it was the turn of the remote island of Kastelorizo.
Kastelorizo one of Greece's frontier outposts, to greet the Olympic light on a journey that, despite its Greek colour, did not for a moment lose its universality. Even on the same day its light has illuminated different worlds. From the low key reception in Kastelorizo where it was greeted by primary school children to the red carpets laid in Rhodes and the spectacular programme of the overnight ceremony.

In Kastelorizo the altar was lit in front of the few inhabitants of the island and the crew of the gunboat "Machitis" berthed at the island. The ceremony was attended by Minister of the Aegean, Aristotelis Pavlidis.

For the small island community the arrival of the Flame was indeed a unique event, a sacred day, as Mayor Pavlos PANIGIRIS pointed out: " For us the arrival of the Flame on the island is something we could never have imagined. And it is something that honours us that hold the Greek flag up high. I would like to thank the organisers for including Kastelorizo in the Torch Relay, they have shown that they have acknowledged our stance …" Strung out along the harbour, the children wearing traditional costume waved Greek flags. Kastelorizo greeted the Flame by expressing its hopes, both great and frail. The festivities that followed were unique: an orchestra flown in from Rhodes for this purpose, lamb and fish galore.

An hour later the helicopter landed at Rhodes airport where a red carpet had been laid out for the official greeting by Mayor Giorgos GIANNOPOULOS. "In 24 centuries of its history, Rhodes has proved that it is a guardian of values that also promotes Olympism," said Giannopoulos, just before Niki XANTHOU lit the altar in Eleftheria square. Earlier an impressive procession of vessels had followed the Torch Relay along its coastal route, images witnessed by thousands of residents from the island and naturally foreign tourists who happened to be there. The impressive spectacle continued with acrobatic performances, dances and traditional music played by different groups. The event ended with a concert by Pantelis THALASSINOS.

On Kalymnos one dance was enough. One man performed the dance to the "Mechanic" for Pantelis GEORGANTIS who suffers from the decompression sickness of divers. There on the platform, before the altar, Mr Georgantis sat at a cafι table, alone drinking a glass of wine, and the whole island stood around him. Moved he watched his fellow villagers dedicate the dance to him. Earlier that afternoon, together with the last Torchbearer, the athlete Maria ZOIDI, he had lit the altar on Kalymnos.

The ceremony ended with a concert by the singer Savina GIANNATOU who sang about the Mediterranean in front of her compatriots. Four Turkish Mayors also attended the event, invited by Kalymnos Mayor, Giorgos ROUSSOS. The Mayor seized the opportunity to talk about the message of brotherhood and cooperation and his counterpart from Bodrum agreed, holding the Greek flag.

On Kos, where the ceremony took place in Eleftherias square, the scorching heat did not prevent the local brass band from wearing its official uniform. The ceremony became a focus of interest for many tourists. Former Balkan champion Vasilis KEFALAS was the last Torchbearer and Mayor of Kos, Miltiadis FAKKAS, spoke of the island's historical past and of the Flame, saying that it is a powerful symbol of peace.

This morning, the island of Karpathos dedicated the ceremony to its emigrants, and Mayor Michalis IOANNIDIS said that it was one of the greatest days in the island's history. They were all present at the event: the choir, the children dressed in traditional costumes, waving Greek flags. The port and the town were decorated with flags, church-bells were ringing joyously. On receiving the Olympic Torch in his wheelchair, Vasilis PAPAVASILIS said it was a message to all athletes with mobility problems.

On Wednesday morning, the two Chinook helicopters carrying the Flame to the islands will take off from Rhodes to visit Santorini, Sifnos, Paros, Naxos, Mykonos and Syros, where tomorrow's overnight ceremony will be held. On Syros, a concert by Lavrentis MACHAIRITSAS and Christos THIVEOS will take place after the welcome ceremony.

Statements issued by Torchbearers

Veteran football player, Mimis Papaioannou, Torchbearer in Rhodes:"I was once named top football player but this moment in my life, carrying the Flame, is different but the greatest moment for me and for all sports."

George Cheimonetos, cycling champion, Torchbearer in Rhodes: "I am proud to be a Torchbearer in my place of birth. Carrying the Flame is just as great an honour as taking part in the Olympic Games. Sports unite the athletes. The Flame unites the world".

Anna Stefanidi, working in the private sector, Torchbearer in Kalymnos: "It was a unique moment for me. I felt myself rise above the ground, flying up high".

Twin sisters, Maria and Stamatia Zoidi, Torchbearers in Kalymnos, where one sister passed the Flame to the other said they were very pleased: "We would like to thank the Municipality of Kalymnos and the Organising Committee who gave us this unique opportunity to carry the Olympic flame together, on our island".

Vasilis Kefalas, former Balkan champion, who lit the altar on the island of Kos: "A great dream of mine has come true, a dream I have had since I was a child. I am proud my island welcomed the Flame, even if it stayed only for a short while. I was honoured to carry the Flame across the island that was the birthplace of great Olympians in ancient times".

Georgia Zisouli, 35 years old, nursery school teacher, Torchbearer in Rhodes. "I feel very lucky to have participated. I hope I will be able to convey the Olympic ideals to the children."

Brothers Nikos and Kikos Magiasis (22 year old electrician and 17 year old high school student) carried the Flame in Kastelorizo and said the passage of the Flame was a great honour for them both and for the island too. "The Olympic flame illuminated our remote island of Kastelorizo".
ATHOC Media (As Amended by ISAF)
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