Russia on Monday unveiled a sleek silver torch to be used for the traditional relay leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The 95-centimetre (37-inch) light aluminium object is shaped like a feather with an open eye in the middle outlined by a fiery red. "Our team was working based on the ideology of the Firebird," designer Vladimir Pirozhkov told Russian state television. It stands for the "luck and happiness that we are all after," Pirozhkov said. The Firebird is a mystical creature in Russian folk tales that has magic powers and assists a famous prince. Organisers said the matt silver in the torch design represented ice while the red stood for the fire kindling in the mountains that surround the holiday resort. Russia's sports-mad President Vladimir Putin secured the palm-tree-lined city the unlikely title of Winter Olympic capital after putting up a firm defence of its candidacy while prime minister in 2007. The city has since been transformed through a $19 billion investment programme that has seen new roads built and stadiums erected from scratch. But economists question the long-term benefits of the project while environmentalists worry about the damage done to local wildlife and nature reserves. The torch relay will begin on October 7 in Greece and stretch more than 65,000 kilometres (40,000 miles) as it winds its way past former Winter Olympic Games capitals on its way to the Black Sea. The Games themselves begin on February 7, 2014 although Russia -- after initially mulling the option of even sending the torch to the International Space Station -- has still not released the relay's exact itinerary. The propane gas torch weighs 1.8 kilogrammes (4.0 pounds) and will produce "a very bright, beautiful flame of bright orange-red," designer Pirozhkov said. Each member of the Olympic relay ceremony gets to keep the torch as a momento of the Sochi Games. Some 14,000 torches will be produced in all.
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