The sacred flame of the Beijing Olympics arrived in this Turkish biggest city at 00:05 on Thursday (GMT 2105 on Wednesday) to start the second leg of an unprecedented global torch relay.
The Olympic flame, carried in a specially-designed lantern, was flied into Istanbul onboard a chartered plane from Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty, the first leg of the global relay.
The Beijing Organizing Committee of Olympic Games (BOCOG) executive vice president, Jiang Xiaoyu, carried the flame lantern and walked off the plane and made a spell of exhibition at the airport, which is located in the European part of Istanbul.
Upon arrival, the Olympic flame and the whole delegation were welcomed by a cheering crowd, among whom were vice governor of Istanbul province Ergun Gungor, senior official of the Turkish Olympic Committee Yalcin Aksoy and Chinese ambassador to Turkey Sun Guoxiang.
Earlier on Tuesday, Aksoy said that the 17.8-km torch relay will be started on Thursday afternoon in Istanbul, the only city in the world located on two continents -- Asia and Europe.
According to Aksoy, the starting point of the relay in Istanbul will be the city's signature St. Sophia Square (adjacent to Sultan Ahmet Square) and Tugba Karademir, a promising Turkish figure skater aged 23, will be the first runner.
Then Karademir and following torch carriers, along the 2-km-long Olympic convoy, will wind their ways through the city and across the Bosporus Bridge, a famous suspension bridge spanning Asia and Europe.
After returning to the European part of Istanbul, the torch will head for the destination, Taksim Square, for the lighting of a ceremonial cauldron. At the end, celebrations and plays will be staged on the square. With it, the Olympic flame will go to Russia's St Petersburg.
Aksoy added then that Turkey's national TV broadcaster TRT will broadcast live some major parts of the torch relay and enable Turkish people around the country to share the passion and joy of the torch relay.
The 2008 Olympic flame was ignited on March 24 in Ancient Olympia of Greece and was handed over to Beijing on March 31 after a six-day relay in Greece.
The 130-day torch relay will cover 137,000 kilometers before the flame returns to Beijing and enters the National Stadium on Aug. 8 for the Olympics' opening ceremony.
A total of 21,880 torch bearers will be participating in the unprecedented relay, which is held under the theme of "Journey of Harmony."