Olympic torch to travel to space while organizers defend preparations

The torch relay for the 2014 Sochi Olympics is scheduled to continue Thursday with an unlit torch riding into space aboard a Soyuz rocket.

The torch will be delivered to the International Space Station, where cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky plan to carry it on a spacewalk, organizers said. An American astronaut, Richard Mastracchio, will also be part of the mission.

Back on Earth, Russia's Olympic chief contended that despite problems organizers have faced, Sochi has delivered on its promise to build a modern, compact site for the Games.

Fans will be able to travel from the arenas of the coastal cluster to mountain venues by high-speed rail in only 40 minutes, Alexander Zhukov told the Ria Novosti news service.

Referring to the 2006 Winter Games, Zhukov said: "In Turin, you needed several hours to get into the mountains."

On Wednesday, a new $309-million power station was scheduled to be up and running in the region. Athletes training in Sochi had been complaining of rolling blackouts.

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