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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 13:51 GMT
A beacon of hope
A torchbearer takes a light from the Olympic flame
The Olympic flame is on its way to Salt Lake City
Thousands of people will have carried the Olympic torch by the end of its 13,500-mile journey across America to Salt Lake City.

The torch, seen as a symbol of the Olympian tradition, was lit in the Greek capital of Athens, which hosts the next summer Olympics in 2004, on December 4.

It was taken to Atlanta, host of the 1996 Olympic Games, to start a 65-day journey which will have travelled through 46 states.

A total of more than 11,500 people will have carried the torch at different stages of the route.

American cyclist and three-time Olympian Lance Armstrong was handed a role as a relay team leader.

The torch is scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the opening ceremony on 8 February.

Jim Kelly carries the Olympic torch on its journey to Salt Lake City
American footballer Jim Kelly was one of the torchbearers
For 2002, the torch has been designed specially with the main components of glass, silver and copper.

Its body resembles ice in colour and texture and is constructed of glass and silver metal.

The bottom segment features crisp lines and a high-polish finish, lending it a modern look.

In the centre is a "frozen flame" texture that extends to the glass crown at the top, through which the Olympic Flame emerges.

The torch's passage has not gone smoothly at recent Olympics.

Olympic torch
The torch is 33ins (84cms) long
It is mainly made of glass, silver and copper
The relay starts in Atlanta on 4 December, arriving in Salt Lake City on 8 February
The torch will be carried by relay for 13,500 miles (21,720 km)
It passes through 46 states over a total of 65 days
On the way to the Nagano Games in 1998, the flame burned out on several occasions.

The weather was initially blamed as torch bearers, including some travelling by ski and sleigh, were hit by heavy snow.

When the flame went out for a second time, runners were accused of holding it at the wrong angle.

The design came into question as problems persisted. Adjustments were made, with the Games organisers were forced to issue an apology.

At the 2000 Olympics, the torch survived two sabotage attempts on its route through Australia.

The day after a teenager tried to douse it with a fire extinguisher, a 17-year-old youth was arrested for trying to snatch the flame from a female torchbearer.

Even before the torch had started on its journey to Sydney, there was a row involving International Olympic Committee vice-president Kevin Gosper.

He blamed fatherly pride for clouding his judgement after the late selection of his 11-year-old daughter to be the first Australian to carry the torch.

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