The flame that will light the 27th Universiade or World Student Games in Kazan this summer has landed in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok ahead of National Students' Day, before beginning its journey across Russia's nine time zones.
The torch for the Kazan 2013 Universiade was lit on July 12 in Paris – the city that hosted the first World Student Games, in 1923.
It then began a round-the-world journey on the Russian sailing ship Sedov around the five continents. Severe storms in the Pacific Ocean delayed the ship's arrival in Vladivostok, so a special lantern transported the flame, by air, from the South Korean city of Pusan.
“The flame has finally arrived in Russia – and it's a big event for us,” Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin said. “It's made a long trip, and let this fire light up the enthusiasm for sport for everybody around the country.”
Vladivostok is the city in Russia where the next leg of the relay kicks-off. Travelling from east to west – from January to July – the torchbearers will carry the flame through all of Russia's student cities.
The captain of Kazan's ice hockey side Ak Bars, Alexey Morozov, was the first runner to start the relay from the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island – 6.500 kilometers from Moscow.
Despite temperatures as low as minus 20 Celsius, with strong winds 35-year-old Morozov didn't feel the cold.
“I enjoyed taking part in it,” he told RT. “Hopefully; this torch relay will be remembered for a long time. I was really touched by it.”
It's hoped that up-and-coming athletes will be inspired by this event and, for some students; the Universiade could be a stepping stone towards professional sport.
January 25 is Students' Day in Russia, also known as Saint Tatiana's Day, and it was symbolic that local student, and Kazan Universiade volunteer Tatiana Zubareva, finished the Vladivostok stage of the relay, before lightning the city's cauldron.
“It's an honor and a great privilege for me,” she said. “I was delighted to be a part of it, and talk to some of the athletes. We were all one team.”
The torch relay has started its 30,000 kilometer journey across Russian soil to the finish line at the Universiade.
After visiting thirty major student cities the lighting of the flame will become the climax to the Games' opening ceremony in Kazan, on July 6.