Olympic torch illuminates Cairo

Top celebrities bask in the sweltering heat in the streets of Cairo the Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay which set the Egyptian capital and Giza ‘on fire.’ This historic international journey that takes the Olympic flame to all continents and 34 cities worldwide brightens up the downtown area all the way to Giza Al Ahram area where the Great Pyramids stand. The arrival of the eternal flame Friday morning marks the first time since the beginning of the Olympic Games the torch has visited an Arab or African country. Re-lit from the sun’s rays in a traditional ceremony in ancient Olympia on the 25th March, the flame visits every previous host city of the Summer Olympic Games for the first time including Beijing, host of the Olympic Games in 2008, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, and other select cities gathering mobs of tourists along its route.

Celebrations complete with decorated camels and belly dancers have begun June 9 in Egypt and last until the torch’s departure late Friday. At the Cairo’s prized heritage, the Citadel, a special ceremony was held yesterday by the Ministers of Information and Youth and Sports, Cairo and Giza Governors, the Head of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, representatives from the International Olympic Committee and a select group of athletes, celebrities and media personalities participating in the passing of the torch. An event like this becomes all the more reason to celebrate for a country who lost its bid (to South Africa) to host the World Cup 2010.

At the recently-expanded Cairo International Airport, Zeus, the chartered 747 painted over with Athens 2004 Olympic logos (the Olympic Rings and the Greek olive leaf wreath and the Torch Relay logo of a runner who treks the globe) delivered early June 11 the flame. Approximately 100 people from ATHENS 2004 came as entourage.  According to the relay team members, rotational crews, each comprising three flight deck officers, two operations officers and 11 flight attendants operate the aircraft which is expected to log 78,000 kilometers in the air during the torch’s jet-setting.
In a media release from the Olympic Committee, a special exemption has been obtained from the Civil Aviation Authorities by the 747 operator in order to transport an open flame in flight. It is carried onboard in a special lantern that burns continuously for more than 15 hours while trained attendants keep a watchful eye over the flame at all times. The flame sits on the aircraft in a retrofitted lounge in the nose cone area of Zeus.

The international travel began 4 June in Sydney, the 2000 Olympics host. On  July 9, the Relay returns to Greece to travel throughout the country for 36 days escorted by 11,000 inspirational torchbearers selected from world over. This last and final stretch is designed to build momentum for the Opening Ceremony August 13.


Two showbiz personalities carry the flame. Hussein Fahmy, a UCLA film and directing graduate and former President of the Egyptian Film Festival since 1998, recognized for his talent and contribution to Middle Eastern culture and society serves as the Ambassador of Good Will to the Middle East at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The other is 28-year-old multi-awarded actress Mona Zaki, a recipient of Egyptian President Mubarak’s award for her as Jihan Sadat, widow of President Sadat, in the movie Days of Sadat.

The third one cannot ever run.  He lost both legs in a tragic road accident after he drove over an anti-tank land mine.  A qualified physiotherapist and the Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross Orthopedic Center in Kabul, Najmuddin has been involved in the Olympic torch relay since 1988 and has no intentions of stopping. Serving as inspiration to individuals with special needs, Najmuddin not only helps the disabled; he also assists mine victims in getting over their misfortune to become active members of society. Now that’s one real Olympian!

Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay International City List

Cairo, Egypt  Fri, 11 June

Cape Town, South Africa     Sat, 12 June

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil          Sun, 13 June

Rio de Janeiro (break)        Mon, 14 June

Mexico City, Mexico (1968) Tues, 15 June

Los Angeles, Calif., USA (1932, 1984)     Wed, 16 June

St. Louis, Missouri, USA (1904)     Thurs, 17 June

Atlanta, Georgia, USA (1996)        Fri, 18 June

New York City, New York, USA       Sat, 19 June

Montreal, Canada (1976)    Sun, 20 Jun

Antwerp, Belgium (1920)   Mon, 21 June

Brussels, Belgium    Tues, 22 June

Amsterdam, Netherlands (1928)   Wed, 23 June

Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland          Thurs, 24 June

Paris, France (1900, 1924) Fri, 25 June

London, England (1908, 1948)      Sat, 26 June

Barcelona, Spain (1992)     Sun, 27 Jun

Rome, Italy (1960)  Mon, 28 June

Munich, Germany (1972)    Tues, 29 June

Berlin, Germany (1936)      Wed, 30 June

Stockholm, Sweden (1912) Thurs, 1 July

Helsinki, Finland (1952)     Fri, 2 July

Moscow, Russia (1980)       Sat, 3 July

Moscow (break)       Sun, 4 July

Kiev, Ukraine Mon, 5 July

Istanbul, Turkey      Tues, 6 July

Sofia, Bulgaria         Wed, 7 July

Nicosia, Cyprus        Thurs, 8 July

Athens (1896, 2004 host)   Fri, 13 Aug

author: Hazel Heyer

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