State television showed a torchbearer on a boat belonging to Russia’s emergency ministry light a special water-resistant torch held by a man in the water in full diving gear.
The flame, turning into a bright pink flare, was shown disappearing into the dark depths of Baikal, a long lake straddling two Siberian regions that contains 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water.
After coming back up to the surface, the flame was carried to land by another torchbearer wearing a jet-propelled pack, who flew across the lake to a platform on the shore to cheers and clapping.
“This water has its own force, its own energy,” said rescue worker Nikolai Rybachenko, one of the three divers who were involved in the underwater relay.
The lake at its deepest point is 1,642 metres (5,387 feet). The Sochi organising committee said later the divers descended to a depth of 13 metres.
Baikal, sometimes called ‘the Baikal Sea’ for its vastness, is a major tourist destination and home to several unique species like the Baikal freshwater seal. It is also known for having its own fickle climate, with sudden storms frequently ravaging its waters.