Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent the Winter Olympic flame off on its epic journey through Russia and the Arctic Circle in a special ceremony in Moscow.
Over the next 123 days, 14,000 torchbearers will take the relay across 65,000 kilometres of terrain, covering all 83 regions of Russia. Once complete it will become the longest relay in the history of the Winter Olympics.
The torch itself had already travelled from Athens, Greece where it collected its flame from a special solar ignitor.
NHL star and two-time Hockey World Champion Alexander Ovechkin was the first Russian to carry the torch, telling the official Sochi 2014 website:
It was a great honor for me to become the first Russian torchbearer. I am really happy and proud to have been at the Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Torch for it is precisely this event that launches the largest national Olympic Torch Relay in Olympic history.
The tour will culminate in the opening ceremony of the games in Sochi, by the Black Sea, on February 7th 2014.
Already there's been some teething problems, with one runner's torch losing its light during a leg around the Kremlin, but such errors were to expected given the scale of the journey at hand.
The torch will also travel to the North Pole via a nuclear-powered icebreaker ship, ascend to the top of Europe's highest peak Mount Elbrus, descend to the bottom of Lake Baikal in Siberia and head out on a spacewalk on board the International Space Station.
During the relay's Moscow starting ceremony, Putin spoke of what the games mean to Russia and how his country will leave their own unique mark on the history of the Winter Olympics, as reported by the BBC:
Our shared dream is becoming reality. Today is a joyous and momentous day. The Olympic flame—the symbol of the planet's main sports event, the symbol of peace and friendship—has arrived in Russia, and in a few minutes it will be on its way around our huge country.
Tuesday, the Olympic flame arrives in the ancient city of Kolomna, which is home to one of only four 400m indoor speed-skating rinks in Russia. From there, the torch will pass through another 130 cities.
In total, the relay will pass through 132 cities, all of which are listed below.
Russian cities on the 2014 Winter Olympic relay route
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