Olympic Flame bound for Britain

10 May 2012 / 16:07

The Olympic Flame is on its way to Britain.

An actress, dressed in floor-length pleated robes, lifted the burning torch from a parabolic mirror as if the light had been beamed by the Gods directly from the sun's rays.

Only a select group of dignitaries witnessed at first hand the flame almost automatically burst in to life in front of the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia. They included a 15-strong delegation from London 2012, led by chairman Lord Coe.

Only birdsong could be heard as the ritual ceremony was played out in scorching sunlight and the ancient ruins. A solo flautist played as the delegation returned to their seats in the Ancient Stadium to see the priestesses execute a graceful ritual dance.

The flame was placed in an urn, before the high priestess and priestesses gently carried it to the stadium where it was hit by a gust of wind. Then there was a puff of smoke. It was relit from the mother flame.

The first torchbearer was Spyros Gianniotis, Greece's England-born world champion swimmer. He passed it on to 19 year-old Alex Loukos, who was one of the 30 schoolchildren who travelled to Singapore in 2005 as part of the closing presentations for London's bid.

After the lighting, Lord Coe, a two-time Olympic champion, said: "For us this is now the best part of a decade. We were sitting in a glass box with half a dozen people in Canary Wharf and to be honest this is a day we never really dared to dream about.

"This is an extraordinary journey. For me, personally having competed in two Games and having come back here (Olympia) only for the second time, this does complete the circle for me."

The flame will visit Crete, Piraeus, Thessalonica, Xanthi and Larissa, among other places, in a relay around the Greek mainland and islands. The torchbearers are taking it from Ancient Olympia to the Panathenic Stadium in Athens, which was used for the 1896 Games, for the handover to London on May 17.

It is then flown to the UK, landing at RNAS Culdrose, near Helston, Cornwall, on May 18 for a 70-day relay around Britain.

Starting at Land's End, this will see 8,000 torchbearers carrying it from May 19 to the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in east London on July 27.