Olympic torch crosses Arctic in historic first

The Olympic flame began its first trek through the Canadian Arctic by crossing paths with a polar bear on the shores of Hudson Bay, local media said on Monday.

The Olympic torch run across Canada stopped briefly to let the bear pass on Sunday while en route from the airport to the polar bear capital of Churchill, in the northeastern province of Manitoba, said broadcaster CTV.

The relay is the longest in Olympic Games history and day 10 — Sunday — was the nearest the torch ever got to the North Pole.

It later headed further north to a remote outpost on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, coming for the first time within 900 kilometres of the North Pole.

The Alert, Nunavut base was established in 1958 as a Cold War lookout. It is now occupied year-round by a small number of military personnel and government scientists known as “The Frozen Chosen”.

Twenty of the hardy runners carried the flame across the frozen Nunavut tundra in temperatures nearing minus 40 degrees Celsius across the snowy landscape in total Arctic darkness.

The 45 000-kilometre torch relay will see the flame carried across Canada by water, land and air before it arrives in Vancouver, which will host the 2010 Winter Games February 12-28. — AFP

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