It is still unclear how many torches, which usually burn a mixture of gases, will be produced for the thousands of runners who will take part in next year’s relay ahead of the July 26-Aug. 11 summer Olympics.
But organisers are planning changes to the traditional months-long relay across the host nation to make it more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
There will also be far fewer torches than the several thousand usually produced for an Olympic relay by host cities, the source close to the torch lighting and relay planning process told Reuters.
Olympic Games torch bearers, who run a few hundred metres each with their torch before using it to ignite the torch of the next runner, can usually buy the torch as a souvenir of their participation.
“The organisers are planning not to use individual torches for each of the runners,” the source said. “They are planning to produce fewer and the reasons cited are sustainability concerns.”
The relay in the host country starts after the torch-lighting ceremony in Greece’s Olympia, the site of the ancient Games.
No dates have been announced for the torch-lighting ceremony in Greece and the start of the relay in April 2024 in France after the flame arrives in the southern port of Marseille.
Paris organisers told Reuters there would still be the traditional passing of the flame from one torch to the next between runners in a more environmentally friendly model of the relay.
“With a view to reducing our environmental impact we are thinking of another model so that everyone can keep a souvenir of this unique moment and share it with their entourage and the greatest number of people,” a Paris 2024 official told Reuters.
Organisers did not comment on the number of torches to be produced, saying it was still “a work in progress.”
The Tokyo Games relay in 2021 used some 10,000 torch bearers. More than 12,000 ran with the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic flame, while the London 2012 summer Olympics had more than 8,000 torch bearers.
The meeting was attended by Greek Environment & Energy Ministry Minister Kostas Skrekas and his counterpart of Bulgaria Rossen Hristov, who agreed that the pipeline is of great geostrategic importance for both countries.
Furthermore, it was also understood that this project will contribute to Bulgaria's independence from Russian oil, but also to the further transformation of the port city of Alexandroupolis in northern Greece into an energy hub.
It was also dicsussed that a special-purpose company will be tasked with compiling a feasibility study for the specific project.
"With a shared vision for the well-being of our citizens," said Skrekas in a statement after the meeting, "we are consolidating Greece and Bulgaria as poles of stability and security in the whole of Southeast Europe, constantly deepening our strategic cooperation in the energy sector."
Establishing this working group was foreseen in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two energy ministers at Maximos Mansion on February 16, in the presence of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev.
The project was first conceived in 1993 to transport oil from the Caspian Sea to Bulgaria and via Burgas to Alexandroupolis, but had several starts and stops before being abandoned in 2011.
Sunak said there are no plans to amend the legislation, which states the museum can only dispose of objects within its collection in limited circumstances. However, the museum could still arrange a loan of the sculptures.
Since independence in 1832, Greece has repeatedly called for the return of the sculptures – known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles – that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon temple in Athens in the early 19th century, when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
Sunak is unlikely to break with the stances of his two predecessors who were both against any kind of loan of the marbles to Greece.
“The UK has cared for the Elgin Marbles for generations. Our galleries and museums are funded by taxpayers because they are a huge asset to this country,” Sunak told reporters on his plane as he flew to the United States.
“We share their treasures with the world, and the world comes to the UK to see them. The collection of the British Museum is protected by law, and we have no plans to change it.”
The former finance minister George Osborne, the chair of the British Museum, has been working on a new arrangement with Greece through which the sculptures could be seen both in London and in Athens.
The Parthenon Project, which has been backed by British politicians from different political parties to settle the issue, said on Sunday the British Museum’s Parthenon collection could be returned to Greece under a long-term cultural partnership agreement.
Therefore, the Greek champion will avoid the holder of the trophy and No. 1 in the world ranking, Carlos Alkarath, while he will start his duties in the 1000 tournament from the 2nd round.
The world No. 3 will face the winner of the match between Richard Gasquet and the player who will come from the qualifiers, while in case of qualification he is expected to find the Argentinian, Sebastian Baez, on his way. In the "16" phase, if Tsitsipas continues, it is very likely that he will play with the Russian, Karen Khachanov, and in his possible qualification to the quarterfinals, he will wait for one of Felix-Oser Aliassim or Francis Tiafoe. From there on the road to the semi-finals the most likely opponent is none other than Indian Wells finalist Daniil Medvedev.
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said that she reiterated to new Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides the “commitment of the Secretary-General to supporting a resolution on the Cyprus issue.”
She is scheduled to speak with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar later in the day as well as addressing peace activists in the U.N. controlled buffer zone that divides the capital Nicosia.
The U.N. has been facilitating numerous failed rounds of talks between the two sides since 1974, when a Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece split the island into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south — where the island’s internationally recognized government is seated.
A peace deal in Cyprus that is home to a key U.K. air base and a listening post would remove a political thorn vexing the international community for decades, at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has brought instability to the globe.
Moreover, a deal could expedite the development of sizable natural gas deposits off Cyprus’ southern shores amid Europe’s energy crunch and help smooth the rocky relationship between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.
Christodoulides has said that his new administration’s top priority remains a deal reunifying Cyprus as a federation and is keen to get the ball rolling on resuming the process that has been stalemated since the last round of talks in 2017.
But one of the main obstacles to getting back to the negotiating table is an about-face by Turkey and the minority Turkish Cypriots regarding the agreed-upon shape of a deal after the most recent failed push for peace at a Swiss resort in the summer of 2017.
There had been a long-held understanding that any deal would reunify Cyprus as a federation made up of a Turkish-speaking zone in the north and a Greek speaking zone in the south. But Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are now seeking a two-state deal that recognizes separate Turkish Cypriot sovereignty, something that Greek Cypriots reject out of hand. It has also been shunned by the European Union, the U.N., the U.S. and other countries.
Tatar repeated after meeting DiCarlo that negotiations could begin once Turkish Cypriots’ “equal sovereign status” is recognized and that any deal should incorporate military intervention rights ceded to Turkey.
It’s unlikely that any formal process could resume before Turkey’s May 14 election, but Cyprus government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said the Greek Cypriot side is ready for an immediate restart of negotiations “and we expect Mr. Tatar to sit at the negotiating table with a sincere willingness to achieve” a federation-based agreement.
Letymbiotis also reiterated Christodoulides’ aim for the EU’s more active engagement in peace talks through the appointment of a senior official. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots accuse the EU of not being even-handed because although Cyprus is a bloc member, only the south enjoys full benefits.
“We mustn’t view this proposal as having a detrimental contribution, but as contributing very positively to cultivating the necessary climate” for a resumption of peace talks, Letymbiotis said.
The federation announced an agreement with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism on Wednesday, and as part of that deal the U.S. will bring Germany and Greece there for games in August.
The U.S. will host the three-game series, and it’ll mark the first time that the men’s national team will play in the United Arab Emirates. The Americans will play Greece on Aug. 18 and Germany on Aug. 20; Germany and Greece will play there on Aug. 19.
“USA Basketball is thrilled to work with DCT Abu Dhabi to bring the USA Basketball Showcase to Abu Dhabi,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said. “This is the first time our men’s national team will play in the UAE and we’re excited to engage with fans from across the globe, while also offering our players and coaches memorable on- and off-court experiences.”
The U.S. is ranked No. 2 in the world by FIBA, with Greece No. 9 and Germany No. 11. The Americans will announce their World Cup roster this summer, before gathering in Las Vegas for training camp under coach Steve Kerr of Golden State and assistants Erik Spoelstra of Miami, Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mark Few of Gonzaga.
“It’s set to be an unforgettable summer in Abu Dhabi and it’s an honor to host the first USA Basketball Showcase in the UAE,” said Saleh Al Geziry, DCT Abu Dhabi’s director general of tourism.
The NBA played games in Abu Dhabi for the first time last year, sending Milwaukee — including Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who presumably could be part of these matchups — and Atlanta there in October for a pair of preseason games. The NBA plans two more preseason games in Abu Dhabi later this year, in advance of the 2023-24 season.
It will be the second weekend of exhibitions abroad for the U.S. on its way to the World Cup. Spanish officials announced earlier this year that the Americans, Luka Doncic-led Slovenia and Spain are set to play in Malaga from Aug. 11-13 as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of Spain’s national federation.
Spain — ranked No. 1 by FIBA and the reigning World Cup champion — will play No. 7-ranked Slovenia on Aug. 11. The U.S. and Slovenia will play Aug. 12, and the Americans will face Spain on Aug. 13.
The World Cup starts Aug. 25 and continues through Sept. 10. Games will be played in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan; the U.S. will play all of its games in Manila.
The World Cup draw, when the 32 participating teams will find out their opening opponents, is April 29th, 2023.
EYP’s full statement follows:
“Maria T.”: A case of espionage uncovered by EYP.
Greece’s National Intelligence Service (EYP) has made an important disclosure of the modus operandi and infiltration techniques used by foreign intelligence services in Greece. More specifically, systematic investigations conducted by EYP, further to information it has collected, demonstrated that a female person under the name “ Maria T.” who in the past few years pretended to be Greek and worked as a photographer and owner of a craft and knitting supplies shop in Athens, with Greek citizenship and an identity card since 2018, is in reality the foreign national “ Irina A. S.” who has been operating in our country under “deep cover.”
The countdown towards her exposure started after the detection of a third country attempt to gain access to personal data of deceased Greek citizens, an internationally known and established practice the intelligence services of a specific foreign country use for the creation of a special category of spies called “illegals.”
The aforementioned intelligence services recruit and train “Illegals” aiming at placing them in target countries, in order to carry out spying activity on behalf of their country. To protect their real identity, they operate under a “deep cover” which they create by falsifying personal documents and using stillbirth certificates or death certificates. From the moment of their settlement abroad the “illegals” live and act on the basis of the fabricated story created for them so as to shield their mission.
“Maria T.’s” profile and activity is a direct reference to the special category of “illegals”.
The case that has been just disclosed by EYP is a telling example of the way of thinking and acting of the specific foreign Services, since in order to engineer the identity and the profile of “T.” they have methodically worked for many years, skillfully exploiting people, procedures and institutions so that the third country citizen “Irina” eventually lives and identifies as the Greek citizen “Maria” thus deceiving even her closest persons in Greece who were obviously unaware of her real identity.
It is clear that “T.’s” activity would not have been limited to Greek territory. Being an EU citizen she would have been able to travel and work in many European countries. That is why EYP’s success bears a dimension that goes beyond the national borders and touches western countries overall.
The devastating February 6th quake in southern Turkey killed some 50,000 people in the country and neighboring Syria. It was followed three weeks later by a head-on rail collision in Greece which left 57 dead and has halted train services so far this month.
“After a long period of unacceptable provocations, a long period of aggressive behavior, today we are experiencing ... a de-escalation and a more positive attitude and behavior,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
NATO members Greece and Turkey both face national elections before the summer, leading many allies to warn of a further escalation over long-standing disputes that include sea boundaries and drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
But an outpouring of sympathy in Greece for the victims of the earthquake and the response in Turkey has shifted the focus between the two neighbors, Mitsotakis said.
“The deadly earthquake brought our two peoples closer together on a human level,” he said.
Mitsotakis made the remarks after talks in Athens with Cyprus’ new President Nikos Christodoulides, who has sought to re-start talks in the war-divided island, split between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north.
Turkey will hold parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14th, while Greece will hold parliamentary elections before July.
The aim was to "disable" any subsequent action of it in another country.
Irina Alexandrova Smireva lived in Pagrati and ran a shop selling handicrafts and knitwear while also appearing as a photographer. According to the first information, her naturalization took place as a child of Greek expatriates, while she acquired the Greek identity in 2018. Her activities were uncovered by a systematic investigation by the National Intelligence Service (NIS). Greek investigators found that Irina belongs to a special category of spies known as "illegals".
The spies of this category are supplied by the secret services of their countries, with identity details of people, even small children who have died - as happened in the case of Irina.
Irina who appeared as the Greek "Maria" had deceived the people closest to her who did not know her real identity, nor of course her secret activity.
With the Greek identity, Irina could move around Europe.
Information indicates that since January she left Greece for Russia, as did her husband who is allegedly a spy and at the same time left for Brazil.
The "character construction" cost 5 million Euros
The information states, that in order to "transform" the Russian Irina (as Irina Alexandrovna Smireva is referred to in the channel reports) into Maria T., the process cost the Russian state 5 million euros. That's how much it costs, as they say, to "build character."
The "thread" of the case about her activity as a spy began to unravel two months ago, when the Slovenian authorities arrested a colleague of hers.
The arrest understandably alarmed the Russian secret services, who, fearing that other persons from the network of "illegals" would be revealed, recalled Maria T. to Moscow and "disappeared" her.
She told her acquaintances in Greece that she would be leaving for some work abroad and that she would return in a month, but she never showed up, closing the shop and deleting as much information as she could from social media.
The Greek champion said after the match: "My tennis is not where I would like it to be. I make a lot of effortless mistakes, but the important thing is that I fight and manage to find ways to win.
This is the most important thing, to find a way to win", said the 27-year-old Sakkari and added: “I don't care about winning without my performance being good. What concerns me is why I make so many effortless mistakes. It's not something I can change in a day though, it won't make me lose sleep. Many times I have managed to return to my good self. I've heard so many stories of players who weren't playing well at the start of a tournament and gradually improved."
Moreover, a month after her traumatic experience against Karolina Pliskova, in the Dubai tournament premiere (21/2), Maria Sakkari will once again face the 30-year-old Czech, on Tuesday night (14/03, no earlier than 20:00) as part of the round of 16 of Indian Wells. In the previous 1000 tournament, the 27-year-old champion was defeated "hands down" by the world No. 17 (6-1, 6-2), however, the match that follows is completely different.
Sakkari admitted his difficulties and is optimistic about his outcome: "Of course it will be a very difficult match. We also played in Dubai, but there the court suited Pliskova's game and not so much mine. it will be hot, causing the ball to come very fast. At this point, you don't expect an easy game. My opponent serves very high and likes to hit the ball hard, so what I have to do is reduce my mistakes. Otherwise he will take advantage of it and dominate.”
Greece has asked for others to imitate the Vatican Museums after they agreed this month to return three 2,500-year-old pieces of the Parthenon. London and Athens are in talks over the Parthenon Sculptures held by the British Museum.
The Parthenon, which is on the Acropolis in Athens, was completed in the fifth century BC as a temple to the goddess Athena, and its decorative friezes contain some of the greatest examples of ancient Greek sculpture.
Greece has repeatedly called for the permanent return of the sculptures, which British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the temple in the early 19th century when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Greece's then-ruler.
The Parthenon Project, which has been backed by British politicians from different parties, said the British Museum's Parthenon collection could be returned to Greece under a long-term cultural partnership agreement.
They would be reunited with Greece's artefacts in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, "as a complete artistic work consistent with its creators’ vision," the campaign group said.
The plans, which have been discussed with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and British Museum Chair George Osborne, would see a rotation of Greek masterpieces offered to the British Museum, including some that have never been seen outside Greece.
The Parthenon Project said the agreement would be predicated on "the acceptance by both sides that this transformative cultural partnership is possible, despite the absence of a shared position on ownership of the Parthenon Collection."
That would mean the arrangement sidesteps the requirement for a change in the law to allow the British Museum to dispose of its artefacts.
Osborne has played down the prospect of a permanent return of the marbles, citing the potential legal hurdles, and instead suggested an arrangement where the marbles can be seen in both London and Athens.
Second seed Tsitsipas told reporters on Wednesday that he did not expect to make a deep run at the tournament due to his ailing shoulder and it was unclear how much he had left in the tank after he was blanked in the first set tie-breaker.
But the Greek battled back in the second and pumped up the crowd ahead of the third set tie-break.
But overly aggressive play in it, including a forehand on match point that missed the line by the slimmest of margins, was his undoing.
A beaming Thompson fired a ball high into the air in celebration after he notched his first win over Tsitsipas in three career meetings and second over a top 10 player.
“Tricky match point,” Thompson told reporters.
“The ball was only just out and it was a relief that it was. It was a great feeling. You could see it on my face at the end of the match. I was overcome with joy.”
Earlier, Briton Cameron Norrie cruised past Taiwan’s Tung-lin Wu 6-2 6-4.
Norrie, the 2021 champion, broke Wu four times en route to the win and will next face either Italy’s Matteo Berrettini or Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel, who play later on Friday.
“Lots of good memories at Indian Wells,” Norrie said. “It’s nice to be through to the third round.”
The 10th seed is off to a terrific start this year having beaten world number two Carlos Alcaraz in the Rio Open final last month to claim his fifth singles title.
Norrie’s win comes a day after unseeded Britons Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu reached the second round at the ATP and WTA 1000 event in the Southern California desert with gutsy wins.
Norrie will face qualifier Taro Daniel after the Japanese player rallied to upset 20th seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy 7-6(5) 0-6 6-3 in the evening session.
Norwegian Casper Ruud’s serve-forehand one-two punch proved too much for Diego Schwartzman as the third seed advanced 6-2 6-3 over a player who has given him trouble in the past.
“Everything sort of went my way,” said Ruud, who now has four wins and five losses against the Argentine.
“Early on there were a couple of line shots and net cords that went my way, so I kind of felt that maybe today is my day.”
Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev as well as American Frances Tiafoe all breezed into the third round with comprehensive straight sets wins in the evening session.
On the women’s side, second seed Aryna Sabalenka needed just over an hour to dispatch Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina 6-2 6-0 as the Australian Open champion improved to 14-1 on the year.
“Happy to win this match in two sets without struggling too much,” Sabalenka told reporters.
The Belarusian next faces Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko. Players from Belarus and Russia are once again playing under neutral flags at the tournament due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s going to be interesting match,” Sabalenka said.
“She’s a great player and it’s going to be a great battle.”
Swiss Jil Teichmann upset her doubles partner and countrywoman Belinda Bencic 3-6 6-3 6-3 on the Tokyo Olympic champion’s 26th birthday to reach the third round for the first time.
Third seeded American Jessica Pegula roared back to beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi 3-6 6-1 6-2 under the lights on center court to set up a third round showdown with Russia’s Anastasia Potapova.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko upset Croatian Donna Vekic 2-6 6-2 6-2, Latvian Jelena Ostapenko defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5 3-6 6-2 and Czech Barbora Krejcikova breezed past Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 6-1 6-2.