The Italian Almanac

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running the torch

Italian Sport - November 28

The Olympic torch has set off on the long journey that will take it to Turin next February, venue for the 2006 Winter Olympics. The torch was lit from a beacon kindled by the sun's rays in this Ancient Greek city before beginning a relay race that will see it handed on from athletes to soccer stars and other celebrities.

The torch will reach Rome on December 8, where President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi will hand it to Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini. Roma and Italy soccer star Francesco Totti and his cross-city rival Paolo Di Canio of Lazio will be two of the first torch-bearers. Other celebrity bearers will include singer Gianni Morandi, former soccer star Gianfranco Zola, former athletics champion Sara Simeoni, Italian style king Giorgio Armani and champion gymnast Igor Cassina.

The torch will arrive in Turin on the day of the opening ceremony, February 10. The head of the Games organising committee TOROC, Valentino Castellani, hailed the approach of the torch as "a great emotion." "It's a sign that the Games have already begun," he said.

TOROC is keeping the watching world on tenterhooks as to the identity of the final torch-bearer. The bookies' favourite is skiing legend Alberto Tomba, followed by cross-country skiing heroine Stefania Belmondo and motorcycling star Valentino Rossi.