The flame, which is lighted at at ancient Olympia by the Hellenic Olympic Committee, is handed over to the LPOOC in the solemn ceremony in the 50,000-seat stadium in Athens.
The flame is flown to the United States, and after landing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, it is carried by runners almost 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) to the site of the Games.
The Torch Relay within the United States, a very complex production involving over 60 persons and nine vehicles, takes nine days to complete, and represents many substantial in-kind contributions (vehicles, food, lodging, torches, uniforms, and more), by communities, companies and individuals.
The Torch Relay serves two purposes: first, it gets the flame from Olympia to Lake Placid with appropriate honors befitting a "distinguished visitor from abroad". Second, it serves to involve millions of Americans in the Olympic Games who might otherwise not see any part of them, and it serves to herald the start of the Games with a great deal of pre-Games publicity.
By the time the flame reaches Lake Placid, millions of people will have shared the thrill of seeing it pass through their cities, and sent it on its way with their own enthusiasm. For many, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
For the 52 men and women who will carry the torch to Lake Placid, it will be a similarly unique event. From every state in the union (plus Washington D.C. and the village of Lake Placid), these torchbearers have achieved the dream of a lifetime by being selected to carry the Olympic Flame. They will return to their states full of the spirit of brotherhood and friendly sports competition, and more than likely will spend the rest of their lives inspiring others by their example.
In every way, the Olympic Torch Relay will have been worth the years of planning: the time and effort donated by people in each city through which the torch will pass; the dedication of hundreds of volunteers at the LPOOC; and the generous contributions of thousands of individuals and many large corporations will have born fruit in one of the most inspiring celebrations of the decade, for all Americans.