Russian Olympic torchbearer catches fire

Former Olympic bobsledder was parading the torch through a crowd in a Siberian city when his jacket burst into flames.

The flame has gone out dozens of times, prompting both humour and criticism from Russians [AFP]

A Russian torchbearer’s jacket caught fire in the latest mishap to befall the Olympic Flame as it continued on an epic journey that has so far taken it to the north pole, into orbit and to the bottom of the world’s deepest lake ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Pyotr Makarchuk, former Olympic bobsledder, was parading the torch through a crowd in the Siberian city of Abakan last week when flames suddenly leapt from his left shoulder and upper arm of his jacket, a clip posted on Youtube  late on Wednesday showed.

Escorts immediately put out the flames and Makarchuk was not injured, said Roman Osin, a spokesman for the Russian Sochi 2014 torch relay, who witnessed the incident.

The flames were caused by drops of liquid gas that fell on Makarchuk’s jacket, he said.

Earlier mishaps

The flame has gone out dozens of times,  including an incident minutes after President Vladimir Putin handed it off in Red Square on October 6, prompting both humour and criticism from Russians.  At other times it has burned too fiercely. 

Osin said nobody has been injured by the torch. He declined to say how many times it has gone out.

Russia is conducting the longest torch relay before any Winter Games: a four-month, 65,000-km journey that will end at the opening ceremony in Sochi on February 7.

The Olympic flame has been to the north pole and Lake Baikal, and cosmonauts took an unlit torch on a spacewalk last month outside the International Space Station.

Source: Reuters