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San Francisco Cuts Torch Ceremony Short

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San Francisco Cuts Torch Ceremony Short


San Francisco Cuts Torch Ceremony Short

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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With all the canceled flights, there's one traveler we hope is not waiting at the airport for hours and hours, and that is the Olympic flame. The Olympic Torch relay continues in Argentina tomorrow. How does it actually get there? Well, companies are hired by the International Olympic Committee to manage the relay and logistics of traveling with a torch, and one of them is Alem International. They worked the Salt Lake and Athens Olympics. Steven McCarthy, director and CEO of Alem International is here to tell us how it all works. Welcome to the program.

Mr. STEVEN MCCARTHY (CEO, Alem International): Thanks very much, Madeleine.

BRAND: So, what kind of contingent does the flame have? Does it have its own private jet and handlers?

Mr. MCCARTHY: Well, handlers certainly and a chartered jet at least, and in our case in Athens we had two chartered jets modeled on Air Force One and Air Force Two. So, we had planes in various places that would insure the integrity and continuity of the flame as it passed around the world.

BRAND: You mean this flame travels like the President of the United States?

Mr. MCCARTHY: Well, in our case, in Athens it did. It - our job was to make sure that we had the same flame that we had lit in Olympia, Greece that would light the opening ceremony cauldron in Athens in 2004, so we took it with us everywhere we went. I slept with it, and we had handlers as you call them that would look after the integrity of the flame to make sure it stayed lit no matter what happened.

BRAND: Can you tell us now if it stays lit the whole time? Does it ever go out?

Mr. MCCARTHY: The flame that's carried by an individual torch bearer can blow out in a wind or it can get rained on, but in certain cases if it goes out you always have a backup flame and then there are various other lanterns that hold the same flame around the caravan, or in the host city that we pass through.

BRAND: But you know, once you get on the plane and no one's really looking, and you want to kick back and take a nap and relax, can you just, you know, put the flame out for a second?

Mr. MCCARTHY: We never did for safety reasons first of all on the aircraft because you have to have somebody watch it all the time, and it becomes quite a game to see who can stay awake the longest and make sure that flame is protected no matter. It's a very sacred trust that we took very seriously.

BRAND: How much does it cost to transport the flame around the world?

Mr. MCCARTHY: It can cost a pretty fair amount of money. Our budget was about 33 million dollars, U.S. It can be very expensive, but I think very well worth it because it's the only chance people around the world that can't go to the Games get a chance to see the true spirit of Olympism, which is what the flame represents.

BRAND: Steven McCarthy, president of Alem International. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. MCCARTHY: Hey, thanks very much for having me.

BRAND: Our flame never goes out. Stay with us, Day to Day continues.

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