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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: Torch passes through Germay

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posted on Jun, 30 2004 @ 12:30 PM
BERLIN - Thousands of spectators turned out Wednesday as the Olympic flame returned to Berlin, the site of the first modern torch relay more than six decades ago.

Former ice skating gold medalist Katarina Witt was among more than 130 who ran with the torch on its 32-mile trip through the German capital, starting at the Olympic Stadium an imposing limestone monolith built by the Nazis for the 1936 Games.

"The idea behind the worldwide torch relay is to unite people in the friendly spirit of the Olympic Games," German Interior Minister Otto Schily, who is also the sports minister, said as the flame left the stadium on a seven-hour relay to Berlin's signature Brandenburg Gate.

Dozens of the bystanders waved homemade Greek flags to mark this summer's Athens Games, which open Aug. 13. Some rode alongside the runners on bicycles.

The 1936 Games, in which black American runner and long-jumper Jesse Owens made a mockery of Adolf Hitler's beliefs of Aryan supremacy by winning four gold medals, saw the introduction of the torch relay. It was memorialized in Leni Riefenstahl's film "Olympia."

This year, the torch started its journey March 25 in the Games' ancient birthplace at Olympia, Greece. It will return to Greece July 9, making its way to Athens for the opening in August.

Berlin is the 28th city on the flame's 33-city tour. It was the torch's second stop in Germany, following a visit Tuesday to Munich, the site of the 1972 Games.

The flame has been traveling aboard a jumbo jet painted in Olympic colors and dubbed "Zeus." Its next stop will be the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

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