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Greek crisis won’t overshadow torch lighting: Coe

May 10, 2012

ATHENS: Greece’s economic crisis will not upstage the lighting of the Olympic flame at the birthplace of the Games, London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe told Reuters on Wednesday.

The debt-stricken country – where the flame will be lit amid the ruins of Ancient Olympia on Thursday – risks bankruptcy and tumbling out of the euro zone.

“You can’t overshadow 33 centuries of history and you know the Greek civilisation is responsible for many things – democracy but also the Olympic Games,” Coe told Reuters in an interview.

“We are all in very, very difficult economic times but sport does transcend that and Olympism is something Greece is quite rightly proud of. It is uniquely theirs.”

The torch brings with it a message of hope in the midst of crisis, added Coe.

“The Olympic movement has always from its earliest times been a signal for hope and you know the torch itself is a rallying cry for young people to come together – not just in competition but to come together to celebrate,” he said.

Preparations for the torch lighting have gone smoothly, helped by lots of sunshine.

Greek actors portraying priests and priestesses struck poses and danced amid the ancient ruins of the Temple of Hera during the final rehearsal on Wednesday when the rays of a blazing sun focusing on a concave mirror lit the flame in seconds.

Thursday’s ceremony kicks off an eight-day relay across Greece and the torch is then flown to Britain for a 70-day tour before the Games start on July 27.

“The level of excitement in the United Kingdom is clear,” said Coe. “We were oversubscribed nearly six times for those who wanted to run with the torch.

“In the test event we had, going through small villages in (the Midlands county of) Leicestershire, there were people standing two and three deep on the pavement and that was just a test with no flame.”

Coe said overall Olympic preparations were going to plan.

He declined to comment on The Sun newspaper managing to smuggle a fake bomb past two security checkpoints at the complex housing the main stadiums last week, calling it a “stunt”.

“Everything is on track although we have a lot of work still to do,” said Coe. “It’s the same in every Games, you’re working right up to the last minute, but we’re in good shape.”



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