Olympic flame lit for Games
11 May 2012, 14:34
Ancient Olympia - The Olympic flame was lit in Ancient
Olympia in Greece on Thursday, in a solemn ceremony filled with mystery
and tradition that signals the final countdown to the start of this
year's summer Games in London.
Actors in ancient Greek costume
invoked the god Apollo in the ruins of the 2,600-year-old Temple of
Hera, using a concave mirror to harness the sun's rays and kindle a
flame on the torch for a relay that will take it around Greece and
Dignitaries at the ceremony included the president of
the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge, as well as the head
of the London organising committee, Sebastian Coe.
"We promise to
protect the flame, to cherish its traditions and stage an uplifting
torch relay of which we can be proud," Coe said in a speech, vowing the
event would "lift the spirits and hopes of people across Britain and
across the world".
After thanks to the god Apollo, "king of the
sun and the idea of light", in the shadow of the Greek, British and
Olympic flags, the flame was handed to the first relay runner, Greece's
Liverpool-born open water swimming champion Spyros Gianniotis.
then passed it to 19-year-old British boxer Alexander Loukos, whose
father hails from the Greek island of Lesbos and grew up in the east
London borough where the Olympic Stadium is situated.
said after the full rehearsal at the temple on Wednesday that the torch
ceremony was "a very big moment" for him, adding: "It is very moving.
"I am trembling from the emotions. It is the highest honour for an athlete to do this."
ceremony marks the start of a week-long torch relay, which will take it
to five major Greek archaeological sites, including the Acropolis,
before it arrives at the old Olympic stadium in Athens, site of the
first modern Games in 1896.
A British delegation will receive the flame at a night-time ceremony on May 17.
last flame-bearers in Greece will be the weight-lifter Pyrros Dimas and
the Chinese gymnast Li Ning, who lit the cauldron at the last Olympics
in Beijing in 2008.
The London Olympic Games torch will tour the
United Kingdom and also visit the Republic of Ireland before it arrives
at the Olympic Stadium in east London on July 27 to a worldwide
television audience of billions.
The torch's route in Britain
starts on May 19 at Land's End, the southernmost tip of England to begin
an 8 000-mile (12 875-kilometre) journey.
From June 3-7, it will
visit Northern Ireland and then the Republic of Ireland -- the only
country outside the United Kingdom on the torch route.
inclusion of the Republic of Ireland would have been unthinkable just a
few years ago and shows the ever-closer ties between it and Northern
Ireland, 14 years after a peace agreement largely ended three decades of
sectarian strike in the north.
In mainland Britain, a soldier
wounded in Afghanistan and a 100-year-old woman are among 7 300 people
who will carry the torch, organisers have said.
Also among the
torchbearers is Jim Redmond, the father of former British 400 metres
runner Derek Redmond, who famously helped his injured son hobble across
the line during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The torch relay
culminates on July 27 with the final leg from Hampton Court palace, the
riverside former home of king Henry VIII, to the Olympic Stadium for the
opening ceremony that day.
The torch is a reminder of the
ancient Olympics, when a flame burned throughout the Games. The
tradition was revived in 1936 for the Olympics in Berlin.
overseas legs of the torch relay have been planned this time round after
those before the Beijing Games were hit by widespread protests against