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Rio 2016: Olympic Flame Arrives in Brazil Ahead of Games

The Olympic flame is due to arrive in Brazil on Tuesday, where it will be carried on a relay route designed to showcase its beauty and diversity.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (R) hands the Olympic torch to Brazilian volleyball player Fabiana Claudino at Planalto Palace in Brasilia following the flame's arrival in Brazil on May 3, 2016, to begin its journey across the country before the start of the 2016 Olympic Games on August 5.EVARISTO SA / AFP - Getty Images

The Olympic flame touched down in Brazil early Tuesday to begin a relay route designed to showcase the country's beauty and diversity.

"Its journey continues," Olympic officials tweeted moments after the plane carrying it from Switzerland landed in the capital, Brasilia.

The countdown to the Rio 2016 Games formally began on April 21 with the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch in southern Greece.

Some 12,000 people will carry the flame on its journey to the Maracana Stadium for the Opening Ceremony on August 5.

Here are 16 things to know about the famous flame.

1. The Olympic flame is one of the best-known symbols of the Games. The flame in Olympia, Greece — where the ancient event took place — was lit using the rays of the sun. It is still lit using the sun in front of Olympia’s ruins. But the International Olympic Committee has a backup plan in case of poor weather. A rehearsal is always held on a sunny day with another flame kept on hand in case it is needed.

2. The modern flame was reintroduced for the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. The torch relay was established before the 1936 Games in Berlin. That event was organized by the Nazi party and the torch run went through countries where Germany wanted to increase its influence.

A Yugoslavian athlete hands over the Olympic torch on July 29, 1936.AP file

3. The longest torch relay for a Summer Games was for Beijing in 2008. According to the International Olympic Committee, the relay included 21,800 torch bearers. The torch went on a worldwide tour visiting cities such as London, Paris, and San Francisco before traveling in China. The 2008 Olympic Flame even reached the summit of Mount Everest.

The Olympic torch is lit after the flame was carried to the 29,035-foot peak of Mount Everest on May 8, 2008.Ngawang Chagxi / Xinhua / AP Photo, file

4. The Brazilian portion of the relay starts on Tuesday with a celebration in Brasilia.The Rio Olympic flame will visit 329 towns and cities, including all of Brazil's 26 state capitals. It’s estimated the torch will be able to be seen by about 90 percent of the country’s population.

5. From May 17 - 27, it will travel around the state of Bahia, known for its brilliant “Blue Coast." By June 19, it will have reached Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon. According to World Wildlife Foundation, the Amazon is home to 400 mammal species, 1300 types of birds, nearly 400 reptile species, and about 40,000 plant species.

6. The torch will also travel to Iguacu Falls, which straddles the border with Argentina. When Eleanor Roosevelt witnessed it, she reputedly exclaimed: “Poor Niagara.”

7. There will be about 12,000 torch bearers on the relay. Each person will carry the torch for about 200 meters (656 feet).

Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al-Hussein holds the Olympic torch as the relay reached the Eleonas camp for migrants in Athens, Greece, on April 26. He crossed the Aegean from Turkey to Greece on a rubber boat, after having lost part of his right leg during a bombing in Syria, according to the UNHCR.YANNIS KOLESIDIS / EPA

8. In an Olympic first, a migrant was a torch bearer this year. Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al-Hussein, 27, ran with a prosthetic limb fitted below his right knee on April 26.

Al-Hussein said that "this is such an honor for me. This is for every Syrian and ever Arab who has gone through so much."

9. The torch has a unique design featuring five ribbons of color. Each color represents aspects of nature in Brazil. At the top is gold for the sky and the sun. Gold also reflects the ultimate achievement at the Olympic Games — most famously represented by a gold medal. Next is green for the mountains around Rio. Then comes blue for Rio's famous seascapes. Last is dark blue to represent the ground and land of Rio and Brazil.

Brazilian judo champion Erika Miranda kisses an Olympic torch in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 24.CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP - Getty Images

10. The colored segments of the torch feature a wave design. The design mimics the black-and-white tiled promenade of Copacabana.

11. With Brazilian flare, the moment the torch’s flame is passed from one torch bearer to another is being called “The Kiss.”

12. The flame is sustained using gas. It is supposed to continually burn, but the flame has accidentally or deliberately been extinguished many times during relays. In 2013, a Kremlin guard used a lighter to reignite a torch in Moscow ahead of the Sochi Games.

13. The official uniform for the Rio torch relay is a white shirt and shorts with yellow and green trim. Rio 2016 organizers say the white represents peace and unity, the yellow symbolizes the Olympic flame, and the green brings in the color of the Brazilian flag.

14. The torch relay even has an official song “A Vida do Viajante” — or "The Life of a Traveler."

15. The torch relay ends on August 5 when the final torch bearer will light the Olympic cauldron at the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.

16. The selection of the final torch bearer and is always shrouded in mystery. At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Muhammad Ali had the honor. During London 2012, the cauldron was lit by seven aspiring young athletes.

Muhammad Ali lights the Olympic flame at the Atlanta Summer Games on July 19, 1996.Michael Probst / AP, file