The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch will be the first to travel in space after the historic spacewalk leg of the Relay was confirmed recently.
The Torch, which will not be lit for safety reasons, will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan on November 7 aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M manned Soviet-designed spaceship and travel approximately 400 kilometers to the International Space Station (ISS).
Once in space Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryazansky and Oleg Kotov, who have already started their training at the Yuri Gagarin Centre, will take the Olympic Torch on a spacewalk.
The move comes after Sochi 2014 President and Chief Executive Dmitry Chernyshenko and Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin signed an agreement for the Russian Federal Space Agency to become an Honored Partner of the Torch Relay.
“Nobody has done this before,” Chernyshenko said at the signing at Star City, the site of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre near Moscow, where spaceship captain Mikhail Tyurin was presented with the Olympic Torch. “The spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts with the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch will be an historic moment in the history of the Olympic Torch Relay.”
“I want to thank the Federal Space Agency for its support which will enable us to take the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay to the final frontier,” he added.
Popovkin said that taking the Torch into space is a “bright new page” in history.
“Conducting a spacewalk with the Olympic Torch is an unprecedented event in the history of the Olympic Movement and the world of astronautics,” he said. “Its in-orbit delivery and the spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts will be a bright new page in space history.”
The Torch will return to Earth with cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, who, along with Kotov, supported the Sochi Olympic bid presentation made during the 119th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Guatemala City in 2007 while based on the ISS. It was after this presentation that the city was named as the 2014 Winter Games host city.
Chernyshenko said that same Torch will light the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremony next year.
“This is a demonstration of our successes and our achievements and Russians, they should be proud,” he said. “Today we have added a new page in the history of the Sochi Olympic Games project.”
The Olympic Torch Relay, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 7 in Sochi, will be the longest in the history of the Winter Games, taking in some 65,000 km across 2,900 towns in Russia’s 83 regions as it travels by car, train, plane, Russian troika and reindeer sleigh.
More than 14,000 Torchbearers and 30,000 volunteers will carry the Torch, and Sochi 2014 expects that 90 percent of the Russian population will be within an hour’s reach of the Relay, meaning that 130 million Russians will be able to experience it for themselves.
It will finally return to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7, 2014.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.