Russia has lit the Olympic flame at the North Pole for the first time as part of a spectacular relay ahead of the Sochi Winter Games, organizers said on Friday.
“The 2014 Olympic flame has been lit at the North Pole,” said the organizers of the relay, which started in Red Square in Moscow and is due to take an unlit torch into space next month.
Russia hosts the Games in its Black Sea resort of Sochi in February next year. The event has already broken records in terms of the costs of its preparation, with a total budget of more than US$50 billion.
A lit torch was carried from the deck of a nuclear icebreaker across a stretch of ice to the North Pole by 11 torchbearers from Arctic countries, including the US, Iceland and Finland.
Russian Arctic researcher Artur Chilingarov, 74, then used the torch to light a cauldron at the North Pole itself amid temperatures of about minus-25?C.
The event included a laser show projecting polar bears and national flags onto the ice.
The torch traveled on a nuclear icebreaker, the 50 Years of Victory, which belongs to the Russian nuclear energy agency.
The icebreaker took almost four days to reach the pole from the port of Murmansk, making the trip in polar night conditions for the first time. It was painted with the Olympic logo for the occasion.
The torch reached the pole on the night of Oct. 19 and Oct. 20, but organizers only released a statement when it returned on Friday.