The London 2012 Olympic Flame was lit in Ancient Olympia, Greece, yesterday at a ceremony at the Temple of Hera, next to the historic ruins of the home of the ancient Olympic Games.
In a traditional ceremony organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), a parabolic mirror was used by the High Priestess, Ino Menegaki, to capture the sun’s rays to create the Flame. It was then carried into the Ancient Olympic Stadium to mark the beginning of the torch’s eight-day relay around Greece.
A Handover Ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on the evening of Thursday 17 May will precede the torch’s journey to the UK, where it will be carried by 8,000 inspirational people on a 70-day journey from Saturday 19 May to Friday 27 July.
Sebastian Coe, Chair of LOCOG, said: ‘The Olympic Flame lit in Olympia will connect the ancient Games and the modern Games. Cities, towns and villages across Greece and Britain will be connected together and to the London 2012 Olympic Games forever.
“Sport has enduring and universal appeal, and the timeless Olympic values transcend history and geography; values, which, I believe, in these challenging times are more relevant than at any time before, particularly to young people all over the world.”
British-born Greek 10km swimming world champion Spyros Gianniotis had the honour of starting the Olympic Flame’s journey across Greece, as he carried it from the Ancient Stadium via Pierre de Coubertin’s Grove.
It was then handed to 19-year-old London Borough of Newham resident Alexandros (Alex) Loukos. One of the youngest Bid representatives in Singapore, Alex helped London to win the Olympic bid in July 2005, and yesterday, once again, represented the youth of London.
He said: “It is an unbelievable honour to be a Torchbearer in the Olympic Torch Relay, especially carrying the Flame in Olympia and representing the city of London.
“I have grown up with London 2012 – from helping with the bid in Singapore when I was twelve, to witnessing the incredible regeneration of my home in East London as the 2012 Games have taken shape and changed the area forever, to now with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one of the first to carry the Torch for the London Games.”
Three-times Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie CBE has been confirmed as the first Torchbearer for the Olympic Torch Relay when it reaches the UK.
Ben will start the Relay at the Land’s End Landmark signpost at 7.08am on May 19. He said: “I am extremely honoured to be the first Torchbearer at the start the 70-day Olympic Torch Relay. It will be an amazing experience to be able to carry the Olympic Flame in the area that I grew up in.”
8,000 Torchbearers will carry the Olympic Flame for approximately 300 metres each, passing the Olympic Flame from Torch to Torch until it reaches the Olympic Stadium on the evening of 27 July. The Olympic Flame will journey to within 10 miles of over 95 per cent of the UK population.
Jessica Whittington, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Image credit: London 2012