Los Angeles welcomed the Olympic flame at Venice Beach, and saw it off with Greek dances at Dodgers Stadium, as a prelude to a league Baseball game.
When in LA, do as the Angels do; so the Flame's first stopover on US territory was mapped out by three showbiz stars, legendary names from the Olympic Games, and landmarks of megalopolis of the Far West.
"I am happy, it is the most important moment of my life,"
said Sylvester STALLONE, just before receiving the Flame as first Torchbearer from L.A.'s Mayor, at Venice Beach. Earlier, during a meeting with ATHENS 2004 Executive Director and COO Marton SIMITSEK, and Theodoros ANGELOPOULOS, standing in for the President of OCOG, Stallone had said he wanted to come to Athens to watch the Olympic boxing. Mr Angelopoulos promised him an invitation from the President of the Organising Committee. Sylvester STALLONE emoted in front of the Hellenic National Television (ERT) camera, equating the honour of being the first Torchbearer with 'the dreams of an immigrant come true'. Los Angeles Mayor, James HAHN, hastened to explain that no fewer than 42% of the city's inhabitants had been born in another country. "Harmonious coexistence in a way represents the Olympian ideals. Athens will have a successful Games and I hope I will be able to watch them at first hand".
The route of the Olympic Flame through Los Angeles took in all the landmarks that have made the city famous, as the Torchbearers - young and old, athletics champs and kids with disabilities - ran on under the hills of Hollywood and crossed Sunset Boulevard, to finish in the very stadium that had hosted the 1984 Olympic Games. There were some moments to pull at the heartstrings. On Wednesday, for instance, Peter GLENTZOS would be bearing the Torch on his 95th birthday. And who better? For Peter is the oldest US citizen alive to have taken part in the Olympic Games. In 1932 he represented Greece at the first Los Angeles Games. He has lived in the USA ever since. But he will be in Athens on 6 August, a spectator at the 2004 Olympic Games. Another emotional moment was at Saint Sophia Cathedral, focus of the L.A. Greek community. The priest of the cathedral carried the Flame as a Torchbearer, and sang the Greek and the American national anthem.
In a live TV broadcast the citizens of Los Angeles were also able to watch a favourite comedy actress, Ellen DEGENERIS, who ran with the Flame through Hollywood. "It was very exciting for me",
she said. "In the end all of us can have a very personal Olympic moment."
Hollywood's third person in the Torch Relay was Tom CRUISE, who took the Torch into the Dodgers stadium. Just a few minutes later, baseball spectators were watching a Greek group dance national dances. "It is an honour to be chosen. I believe that the Olympic Games do indeed support international cooperation",
The Last Torchbearer was an all-American Olympic legend, decathlon gold medallist Rafer JOHNSON.
Early on Thursday morning, 'Zeus', the plane carrying the Olympic Flame, took off for St. Louis, celebrating the centenary of its 1904 Games with Athens' 2004 Torch relay.