Olympic Gamers: End to flaming row

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The Independent Online
A FLAMING row came to an end yesterday when Olympic officials from Norway and Greece agreed not to merge their rival torches, which are being conveyed on separate paths to next month's opening ceremony for the Winter Games.

The Norwegian hosts claim that their flame, currently on a 5,000-mile national relay involving 7,000 runners, is the original winter warmer as it was lit outside the cabin in Mordegal of a 19th-century valley- dweller, Sondre Norheim, considered to be the father of modern skiing.

They planned to merge the Morgedal flame with the traditional Greek gift, which had been lit at the site of the ancient Olympics. But officials from Athens protested that such a merger would taint a pure Olympic vessel.

Now, the two parties have agreed not to mix Mediterranean fire with Nordic fire. The Mordegal torch, which was ignited when two sticks were rubbed together in November, will light up Lillehammer from 5 to 11 February, with its Greek counterpart taking over while the Games are actually in progress.

The hosts, meanwhile, will keep their flame burning out of sight until the arrival of competitors for the Paraplegic Winter Games.

'Sometimes I've smiled at the dispute, at others I've been close to crying,' Gerhard Heiberg, the president of the Lillehammer organising committee, said. 'For some people this is deadly serious.'