Rio Olympics torch explained

2 min
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Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) (AFP)

The Olympic flame arrived in Brazil on Tuesday and now begins a three month relay around Latin America's biggest country ahead of the Games in Rio this August.

Here's a look at the epic journey and the message Brazil hopes to send.

The torch

The design features wavy lines in tropical colors -- and not just any old tropical colors.

The flame is meant to represent the sun. A bright green line underneath is for the forested mountains, such as those lining Rio's Atlantic coast.

Rippling blues represent the sea, even if in reality the spectacular Rio coast is marred by shocking levels of pollution. And the wavy lines themselves? They evoke the beloved mosaic sidewalks of Copacabana, perhaps Rio's most famous beach.

The relay

The flame has already traveled a long way. It was lit at the ancient site of Olympia in Greece on April 21 before being flown via Switzerland to Brazil's capital Brasilia.

Now it will be passed hand-to-hand between 12,000 Brazilians around the giant country, pausing in the capitals of all 27 states and crossing 12,430 miles (20,000 kilometers) by land and 9,940 miles (16,000 kilometers) by air.

Not all of that will be done by people running, the traditional mode of torch transport. There'll also be stages done in canoe, by horse, hot air balloon, helicopter and abseiling.

The final destination is the Maracana stadium on August 5 for the opening of the Rio Olympics.

The torch bearers

Brazilian Olympic Committee boss Carlos Arthur Nuzman accompanied the flame from Greece, but the first to run with the torch through the streets of Brasilia was double Olympic gold winning women's volleyball captain Fabiana Claudino.

Twelve-year-old Syrian refugee Hanan Daqqah, who arrived in Brazil's biggest city Sao Paulo with her family in 2015, was also among the 10 first bearers.

Most of the bearers are ordinary Brazilians chosen after making their pitch to organizers with a text accompanied by a photo or video. Brazil's authorities are banking heavily on the relay helping to ignite so far lackluster public enthusiasm for the Olympics.

With a crushing recession and political turmoil that could see President Dilma Rousseff suspended from office next week ahead of an impeachment trial, Brazilians have much else on their minds. However, organizers insist that the sports-mad country will catch the Olympic spirit in time for the Games.