It’s a tradition for the country that will host the Olympic games to send the Olympic flame around the world. The flame is passed from person to person, travelling around the country, often followed by cheering crowds watching the runners along the route. For the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, the torch is on a journey like no other. It has moved by runner, troika, reindeer sleigh, dragon boat, go kart, snowmobile, skier, snowboarder, ice-swimmer, speed skater and even on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker (ship). It has visited the North Pole and it has been dipped into Lake Baikal, the deepest freshwater lake in the world. It has even visited space—when it was sent up to the International Space Station.

For one thing, the flame keeps going out. That’s not good, because the fire is a symbol; the fire for the torch is taken from the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece, and transferred to Russia before each Olympic Games. Fortunately, however, there are back-up flames, with fire from the same source. When the torch goes out, it is relit using one of the back-up flames. The Olympic flame has gone out a lot accidentally during a relay, it’s been happening quite a lot in Russia. One journalist said the flame went out at least 44 times in the first two months of the Russian relay.

By the time the Russian relay is finished, it will have gone more than 56,000 kilometres in 123 days, having been carried by 14,000 torchbearers.

The flame will be used to kick off the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 7 in Sochi, Russi.

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