Olympic torch goes faster, higher, further

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The Independent Online

The Olympic torch is to take a trip into space before embarking on an odyssey that will end in the Sydney Olympic stadium on 15 September.

The Olympic torch is to take a trip into space before embarking on an odyssey that will end in the Sydney Olympic stadium on 15 September.

Organisers of the Games announced yesterday that the torch will be blasted into the stratosphere next Monday aboard the US space shuttle Atlantis, which will orbit the Earth for 10 days during an expedition to the International Space Station. The torch, whose design is inspired by the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Bondi beach, will be dismantled and packed, unlit, in foam for the trip. The Sydney 2000 Olympic flag will accompany it into space.

The idea was proposed by an Australian-born Nasa astronaut, Andy Thomas, who hopes to witness the launch at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. "The shuttle is going to overfly virtually all the nations that are participating in the Olympic Games," Dr Thomas saidyesterday.

The torch relay, which begins on 10 May, will take the Olympic flame on its longest tour in the history of the Games, travelling from Olympia in Greece to Sydney via the Pacific nations of Guam, Nauru, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

After arriving in Australia on 8 June, it will be taken on a 23,000-mile, 100-day trek around the country. The torch will also travel under water for three minutes, protected by a steel tube, at the Great Barrier Reef.

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