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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Olympic flame to light up Barrier Reef
37,000km: The Olympic flame will travel the longest distance ever
37,000km: The Olympic flame will travel the longest distance ever
By Phil Mercer in Sydney

The journey of the Olympic torch from Greece to Sydney will now include an historic underwater leg at the Great Barrier reef.

Scientists in Melbourne have developed special steel tubing which will fit over the torch.

A fierce flame burning at more than 2000 degrees Celsius will also generate enough pressure to keep the water out.

Its intensity is produced by a mix of oxygen generating chemicals to light the torch like a flare.

'A dream come true'

The experts are confident it will burn brightly during its three minute dive along Agincourt Reef near Port Douglas in Queensland and still have enough flame left at the end to light the next torch used in the relay.


Wendy Craig Duncan tests the design of the underwater torch
Wendy Craig Duncan tests the underwater torch
Marine biologist Wendy Craig Duncan has been chosen for this historic, if brief, job.

She is clearly delighted. Who can blame her?

"Carrying the Olympic torch underwater at the reef will be like a dream come true," she said

Millions of television viewers around the world will share her magic moment.

Even the fish at one of Australia's most treasured attractions did not seem bothered during this dress rehearsal.

Longest torch relay in Olympic history

The torch will leave Olympia in Greece on its way to Sydney on 12 May.

It will have an amazing journey. The flame will travel from the island of Guam heading through the South Pacific to - among other places - the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand.



I'll be thinking about Sydney 2000, the flame being lit in Olympia by the rays of the sun, the ancient athletes and those of today - the flame unifies the Olympics

Herb Elliot, 1500m Olympic gold medallist
All that before a 37,000km trek around Australia before arriving in Sydney on the day of the opening ceremony.

A month after leaving Greece, the torch will touch down at Uluru, one of the most spectacular sights in Australia, deep in the heart of the country's Red Centre.

There the Olympic gold medallist, the aboriginal sprinter Nova Peris-Kneebone, will run the first leg of the 100-day relay to Sydney.

After that it is carried by just about anything and anyone.

Planes, trains and automobiles

It will travel by train, bicycle, horse, tram, rowing boat, ferry, solar car, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and now a scuba diver.

The torch design is typically Australian and symbolises the Olympic city.

The designers' inspirations included the Opera House, the Harbour bridge and Bondi beach.

The relay team is made up of 10,000 torch-bearers. Half of them are ordinary Australians, selected by special judging panels on the strength of their community work or outstanding acts of generosity or kindness.

The other half is made up of celebrities, sponsors, games employees and former Olympians.

61-year-old Herb Elliot won the gold in the 1500 metres at Rome in 1960.

He will run with the torch in Perth where he grew up.

"I'll be thinking about Sydney 2000, the flame being lit in Olympia by the rays of the sun, the ancient athletes and those of today - the flame unifies the Olympics," he said.

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See also:

27 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cyclone batters Queensland
19 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Climate change killing coral reefs
21 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
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16 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
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