The Olympic flame is making its way toward the Triangle. It will leave Richmond Saturday morning and wind its way down Highway One through Franlinton and Wake Forest before arriving in Raleigh late Saturday.
The flame got a rest last night from its long journey across America to Atlanta -- and had a nice spot for the evening on the White House South Lawn.
President Clinton and wife Hillary, Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper welcomed the flame's arrival at a gleaming cauldron behind a flower bed.
A noisy thunderstorm swept through the area shortly after the flame was lit on the South Lawn. White House officials did not expect the flame to be extinguished but said a safety lantern carrying the ``mother'' flame would be brought inside the White House for protection if necessary.
The Clintons and Gores are to preside over a departure ceremony for the flame Friday morning. It is to cross the Potomac River and stop at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home.
The Olympic flame was ignited March 30 in Olympia, Greece, from the rays of the sun. It left Los Angeles 55 days ago on a tour designed for it to arrive for the start of the Olympic games in Atlanta July 19.
On Saturday evening, the Olympic flame will arrive in Raleigh. Torch runners will depart Raleigh Sunday morning, passing through Durham and Chapel Hill before heading on to the Triad.
Since its arrival in the United States, the flame has been transported more than 11,000 miles through 37 states and hasbeen carried by more than 6,000 people. It has moved by train, by steamboat, by yacht, by bicycle, even by pony express.
Carrying it onto the White House grounds was Sister Mary Popit, a Catholic nun who works on behalf of homeless women.
She passed it to I. King Jordan, president of Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf. Jordan carried it onto the South Lawn and put the torch into the cauldron to light it as beaming Clinton watched nearby.
The torch is made of aluminum, brass and pecan wood. It has a double burner, similar to the pilot light on a gas cooker thatis supposed to keep the 12-inch flame lit in wind and rain.
The flame had wound its way through Washington earlier Thursday and was welcomed to the Capitol by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and thousands of tourists.
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