The symbolic Olympic torch arrived in Beijing, China from Athens, Greece to kick of a 130-day historic relay, counting down to the Summer Olympics. The new Olympic torch, shaped like a Chinese scroll was received with much fanfare by China's President Hu Jintao and thousands of people waving red and white pompoms.
After the ceremony, the torch began it's journey around the globe. This torch relay is the longest ever in Olympic history, covering 85,000 miles across six continents in 130 days, starting with Kazakhstan on Tuesday. The torch will make it's one and only stop in North America, when it arrives in San Francisco, CA on April 9th. The highlight of the relay is expected to be the torch's planned ascent to the summit of Mt. Everest in May.
The relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final carrier of the torch, usually a sports celebrity of the host country, will use the torch to light the Olympic flame in the stadium. The flame will burn throughout the games until extinguished at the closing ceremony.
The tradition of the Olympic torch flame began 2,700 years ago at the first Olympic games in Athens. A flame that symbolized the death and rebirth of Greek heroes was lit and kept alive throughout the games. There was however no torch relay until the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany.
The Olympic torch is an International symbol of athletic competition and excellence and relays goodwill among the nations of the world. The goal of the torch relay is to unite the people of the world and get them to forget their differences for a few days and compete in good spirit. It is a wonderful tradition, one we hope will continue forever!