The Olympic flame was carried through Novosibirsk zoo in central Siberia© RIA Novosti. Alexander Kryazhev
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NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia, December 6 (R-Sport) - Polar bears received their recognition as a symbol of Russia when the Olympic flame was shown to them during the torch relay Friday.
Several bears gathered on an artificial iceberg as the Olympic flame was carried through Novosibirsk zoo in central Siberia. The zoo’s director Rostislav Shilo was one of the torchbearers during the flame’s ongoing journey across Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
A polar bear is one of three official Sochi 2014 Olympic mascots, along with a snow leopard and a hare, both of which were also present during the event.
“It’s the first zoo in the world that’s hosted the Olympic torch relay, and where the Olympic flame meets the symbols of the Games," said Shilo in televised comments.
On Thursday, the torch’s arrival was preceded by a small demonstration aimed at highlighting the reported $50 billion cost of the Games for the country's budget.
The torch relay is the longest national relay in Olympic history, covering more than 65,000 kilometers (40,000 miles). It started on Red Square in Moscow on October 7 and ends its journey at the opening ceremony in Sochi on February 7.
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.