Olympic torch like Kalashnikov rifle: Putin

St. Petersburg, May 31 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The torch for next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi is like a Kalashnikov rifle, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

During a visit here, Putin watched as the torch was taken apart and put back together, prompting him to quip that the torch’s gas pipe resembles the barrel of the famous Soviet-designed weapon.

“No matter what you try and make in Russia, it always turns out like a Kalashnikov,” he joked.

Putin’s remark drew smiles from International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge and Sochi 2014 chief organiser Dmitry Chernyshenko. Russian internet users have compared the silver-and-red torch’s shape to a flame used in the logo for Russian state gas firm Gazprom.

More than 14,000 torch-bearers are set to take part in the record-breaking 65,000-km route. The torch relay will start Oct 7 and end with the Feb 7 opening ceremony.

A host of athletes have already signed up to take part in the relay, including hockey star Alex Ovechkin, pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva, footballer Alexander Kerzhakov and 12-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast Alexei Nemov.

Earlier, Putin attended the unveiling of the medals for the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Kalashnikov was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1949 and has been a mainstay of armed forces around the world since then, in various versions.

Putin has been shown shooting a range of firearms during his time in office, contributing to his image as a macho leader. Perhaps his most famous shot was taken with a non-lethal weapon, in an incident in 2009 when he tranquilised a Siberian tiger with a dart gun.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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