With only 78 days until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Olympic flame was today lit at Olympia during a ceremony organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC). The lighting symbolically marks the beginning of the Torch Relay that will bring the flame to the Olympic Stadium in London on 27 July.
British Olympic Association Chair Lord Colin Moynihan and Chief Executive and Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt were among the guests invited to the ceremony.
CLICK HERE to see photos from the event.
In line with tradition, the flame was lit, following the time-honoured ritual of using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror, by a High Priestess - Ino Menegaki - at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia. The priestess then entered the Ancient Olympic Stadium, in a procession choreographed by Artemis Ignatiou, and used the flame to ignite the torch of the first runner of the Relay, Spyros Gianniotis. A British-born Greek open water swimming world champion and three-time Olympian, Gianniotis then transferred the flame to Alex Loukos, one of London 2012’s young ambassadors in Singapore in 2005, who has Greek heritage and lives in the London borough of Newham.
The Olympic flame will now begin an eight-day journey across Greece, travelling to the island of Crete before going to Piraeus, Thessalonica, Xanthi and Larissa among other areas before arriving in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, on 17 May for the official Olympic Flame Handover Ceremony.
The Olympic flame will then be flown by plane to RNAS Culdrose in Great Britain on 18 May before the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay – presented by Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung - gets underway at Land’s End on 19 May. The flame will visit more than 1,000 villages, towns and cities in the UK during its journey, covering some 8,000 miles over 70 days, as it is carried by 8,000 inspirational torchbearers. The flame will end its journey at the Olympic Stadium on 27 July for the lighting of the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, signifying the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
British Olympic Association Chairman Lord Colin Moynihan:
“This simple yet remarkable ceremony represents the Olympic Values which sport at its best fulfils. As an experience it has no match. It was incredibly moving to see the Torch begin its journey to London, where I have spent my life looking forward to this day. ”
British Olympic Association Chief Executive and Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt:
“To witness the flame being lit first-hand in Ancient Olympia for the London Games is something that I will always treasure. As the flame departed the stadium with the first Torch Bearer, it was clear that the whistle had gone and the final stage of the journey to the third London Games has begun.”