Torch touches down in Sydney

Borne from Athens in a customised Boeing 747 jet dubbed ‘Zeus’, the flame was taken from Sydney airport to the city’s architectural icon the Opera House on the shore of Sydney Harbour.

Thousands of cheering Sydneysiders gathered for an official ceremony featuring Greek Australian schoolgirl ‘goddesses’ carrying olive branches alongside Aboriginal dancers in a symbol of the union of two ancient cultures.

Cathy Freeman, Australia’s 400-metre Olympic Champion who lit the cauldron at the Sydney Games in 2000, took possession of the flame at the steps of the Opera House and set off around Sydney Cove for the first changeover.

“I’m really proud, very proud to be here today carrying the flame and hopefully uniting the world,” Ms Freeman said after handing the torch to former Olympic champion swimmer Suzie O’Neill.

The flame will be carried across Sydney, to the city’s world famous Bondi Beach, before cutting across the CBD and then scaling the height’s of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Former Australian Test cricket captain and Australian of the Year, Steve Waugh, will have the honour of re-lighting the cauldron at Sydney Olympic Park just after sunset.

The torch will then be flown to Melbourne, the home of the 1956 Olympics, before heading onto to Tokyo and then Beijing, which is to host the 2008 Games.

As global anticipation mounts with the start of the global torch relay, the second stage in the construction of the roof over the Athens Olympics main stadium has begun.

The second of two steel arches that will hold aloft a translucent blue roof over the main Olympic stadium in Athens has started being hoisted into place.

Athens organisers expect the arch will be slotted into place within the next 24 hours, three weeks after the first arch was raised.

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