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Olympic Torch Run Begins

May 12, 2000

The Olympic flame was lit in Athens, Greece on Tuesday starting its longest trip ever. The flame had to be lite from a backup flame which was lite in a preliminary ceremony due to overcast conditions.

The flame now begins its 16,600 mile (26,714 km) trip to Sydney. After the ceremonial lighting by a Greek actress it was passed on to Lambros Papacostas a Greek High Jump champion who then passed it to Sophie Gosper, the 11-year-old daughter of International Olympic Committee vice president Kevan Gosper of Australia.

This selection drew criticism from many quarters. Gosper's daughter was a late replacement of the original selection for the spot, Yianna Souleles a 15 year old from Sydney whose parents are Greek.

The Souleles girl was informed about the switch just hours before the ceremony and was able to carry the torch later in the run. But the last minute switch has brought much criticism of the IOC members using their power of influence for personal benefit.

The torch run will move from Greece to Guam on May 22 and then onto 11 other Pacific island nations before arriving in Australia on begin its journey around Australia on June 8.

For his part, Gosper claims he is "astonished" by the outcry and that he played no part in the selection process.

Gosper has been under investigation for accepting excessive travel gifts from 2002 Salt Lake City organizers.