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21 June 2004, 05:19 pm
The Torch Returns To Europe
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Athens 2004

The First two stops for the Greek delegation will be in Belgium at Antwerp and Brussels, on a route running via major European capitals and cities whose history is closely linked to the Olympic Games.
Montreal, Canada was the final stopover on the North American continent. It was a time to recall the 1976 Games, as the Greek community welcomed the Flame on the streets with the Greek flag, a coincidental chance to celebrate the Greek national football team's passage through to the last eight of the Euro 2004 football tournament.

"Montreal recalls the 1976 Olympic Games, welcomes the Olympic flame and wishes Athens good luck", said Mayor Gerald Tremblay at the restrained ceremony to welcome the Greek delegation to the city's Olympic Stadium, on what was an unexpectedly chilly Sunday morning. The music played during the ceremony had been specially written by composed by a Greek of the diaspora, George SAPONITIS.

The first Torchbearer was also of Greek origin. George ADAMOPOULOS, 36 years old, wheeled himself onwards with the Torch to great applause. He has been confined to a wheelchair since he was the victim of a criminal assault at the age of 15. Before this he had been planning for a career in sport. On completing his distance, he handed the torch to Stephane Prefontaine, who had lit the cauldron in the Montreal Olympic Stadium in 1976. The Canadians chose to assign the Torch to people known to have the strength to overcome difficulties, or people known for their achievements and innovative actions. Hence the Torch was carried by Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, by astronaut Julie Payette and by athletes and citizens who have contributed to their local communities.

The Flame passed all the central points in the multicultural Montreal, giving the various different ethnic communities the opportunity to welcome the torchbearers. It received a special welcome from Montreal's Greek community, at the statue of Athena just outside St. Joseph's church, where they had been waiting from early on to greet it. The procession's arrival coincided with the final whistle of the Euro 2004 match, which generated still more enthusiasm. Dozens of Greek-Canadians started to follow the Olympic flame in their cars towards the locale of the main event. They saw the Greek delegation off with folk songs and dances, while the hooting of the car horns gave the ceremony a special colour.

The last Torchbearer was Bruny SURIN, a legendary figure in Canadian sport, as he has taken part in three Olympic Games. "The Olympic flame that was lit in Montreal in 1976 never burned out", remarked ATHENS 2004 representative Spiros Lambridis, as he handed an Olympic torch to Montreal's Mayor. "The city has maintained its Olympic spirit".

"We are waiting for you to visit Greece and watch the best and safest Games ever", said Giannis MOURIKIS, the Greek ambassador to Canada.

At dawn, Greek time, the Greek delegation flew to Antwerp and then went on to Brussels.
Athens 2004
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