Olympic torch begins European tour in Belgium

Updated: July 6, 2004, 9:49 PM ET
Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The Olympic torch touched down Monday in Europe on its last relay leg of the world's five continents before the August opening of the summer games in Athens, Greece.

The torch was handed to Belgian officials and athletes at Brussels International Airport by Spiros Lambridis, head of the Athens 2004 delegation, which is staging relays in Olympic cities around the world.

"It is an honor," said Francois Narmon, head of the Belgian Olympic Committee, after receiving the torch. "It's a privilege to be part of this relay, that we can relive the fact that we once hosted these games here," he told VTM television.

The torch was driven in a convoy of six cars to the port city of Antwerp, which was home of the 1920 games. From there, it starts a European tour of 17 cities, including all which have previously hosted Olympic games, including London, Moscow, Stockholm, Rome and Barcelona.

The torch arrived in Belgium from Montreal, Canada, which hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and was the flame's last North American stop.

The flame began its trek on March 25 in the games' ancient birthplace at Olympia in Greece.

The flame will return to Greece July 9, and make its way to Athens for the start of the games Aug. 13.

On Tuesday the flame will make its way back to Brussels, where the second day's relay will start from the Robert Schuman square, home to the headquarters of the European Union.

From there it will wind its way through the old city to the medieval Grand' Place square.

On Wednesday the torch heads to Amsterdam.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press