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14 June 2004, 03:56 pm
The Torch Reaches Rio
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Athens 2004
Rio De Janiero

Pele could not hold back his tears back as he raised the Olympic Torch in Rio's Maracana Stadium. As Pele himself explained, his emotion was the result of his sorrow for not having been able to participate in any Olympic Games event.
At the official welcome ceremony for the Flame, the Brazilian football legend emerged in front of the spectators out of a 'bouquet' of some 1,000 children forming the Olympic rings, at the centre of Maracana Stadium. Early in the morning of what for Rio was a wintry Sunday, Pele, wearing the ATHENS 2004 Torchbearer uniform, opened the procession of the Olympic Flame through the streets and beaches of Rio.

The Greek delegation arrived in the city at dawn, and the Brazilians welcomed it with honours reserved for Heads of State. As soon as 'Zeus', the plane carrying the Olympic Flame, entered Brazil's airspace, it was met by three Air Force fighters who acted as its escorts. The plane landed in a military base rather than in Rio's civilian airport, and a while later the welcome ceremony began in the vast and impressive Maracana Stadium. The Olympic Flame was brought to the stadium in an army helicopter, carried by ATHENS 2004 Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Marton SIMITSEK, and by Theodoros ANGELOPOULOS, who represented the ATHENS 2004 President. After the playing of national anthems, Brazilian Olympic Committee President, Carlos NUZMAN, handed the lit Torch to Pele. "Our cooperation with Athens is ongoing and productive. We are standing by you, and I express my certainty that Athens will hold one of the best Olympic events of all times", said Mr Carlos NUZMAN. Later, in his official speech Mr SIMITSEK stressed, "Brazil is a great country, has infrastructures and possibilities, and therefore has the right to bid for and undertake the Olympic Games".

The progress of the Olympic Flame through the streets of Rio was full of Brazilian colours and customs. A big percussion band was leading the procession, which crossed the city's central locations, while a brightly coloured crowd participated in the various events. This Torch Relay took place to the sound of samba, and, when the Flame crossed the 'Sambadrome', the carnival's parade grounds, two Schools presented dances prepared especially for the occasion. The arrival of the Olympic Flame was run as a top news item in news broadcasts, while Brazil's national sports channel adapted its logo (which depicts a torch) and broadcast extensive detailed coverage the Torch Relay. Airplanes flew in show formations in the city's skies, while several Brazilians chose to appear dressed as ancient Greeks. The multicoloured procession ended at a massive pop concert with thousands of people. Ronaldo, Real Madrid's famous football player, entered the concert area carrying the Torch to the frantic cheering of the spectators.
Athens 2004 (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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