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Sochi Olympic flame mishap used in PR by lighter firm

by R-Sport at 08/10/2013 16:30

A humble cigarette lighter looked set to spark an Olympian spat Tuesday after an image of one relighting the Sochi 2014 torch was used in advertising.

The 123-day Winter Games torch relay began amid patriotic fanfare on Red Square on Monday but the ceremony was overshadowed by the flame having gone out the day before during a tour around the Kremlin.

An official manning the route rekindled the flame with what appeared to be a Zippo cigarette lighter, breaching rules that state only Olympic lanterns brought from Greece may provide backup.

The Pennsylvania-based Zippo company took full advantage Tuesday, however, posting a screen grab of the moment on its Facebook page Tuesday with the hashtag #ZippoSavesOlympics. The post has gone viral in next year’s host nation with more than 2,400 “likes.”

But the move could be in breach of Russian law banning Olympic symbols from being used in advertising without official approval.

The Sochi 2014 organizing committee is aware of the ad and “is working on this,” its head Dmitry Chernyshenko said on Twitter.

Since the lighter incident, the flame has gone out at least twice more on its journeys around Moscow, but was swiftly relit in a more official manner.

Tuesday’s second day of the record 65,000-kilometer relay sees the flame tour some Moscow landmarks, including the Luzhniki stadium that hosted athletics at the 1980 Summer Olympics, before finishing at Red Square. The day's torchbearers include two-time world champion figure skater Irina Slutskaya, Vancouver 2010 silver medal-winning speedskater Ivan Skobrev and students of some of Russia's top universities.

After leaving the capital Wednesday, the flame will then head north to St. Petersburg before being flown to Russia’s Far East and eventually looping around the Kamchatka Peninsula, down to Vladivostok and back across southern Siberia via Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

On its way through more than 2,900 towns in Russia’s 83 regions, the flame will make its way back into European Russia, winding down through the Caucasus to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for the opening ceremony.

Other high points on the relay's route include a trip up Russia’s highest mountain, Elbrus, in sub-zero temperatures and the sending of an unlit torch into space. That torch will later be used to light the cauldron at the Fisht Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony February 7.

The flame was lit an Ancient Olympia on September 29 and toured 33 Greek towns and cities before being flown to Moscow on Sunday.

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