Olympic flame lit in Greece (Lead)

May 10th, 2012 - 8:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Ancient Olympia (Greece), May 10 (IANS) The flame for the 2012 London Games was lit here Thursday at the site of the ancient Olympics, marking the start of a torch relay culminating with the mega event’s opening ceremony July 27.

In front of the ruins of the ancient Temple of Hera, an actress playing the role of a high priestesses lit the Olympic flame by the rays of the sun in a parabolic mirror.

Dignitaries at the ceremony included International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge and Sebastian Coe, chief of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).

“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, adding that the event would “lift the spirits and hopes of people across Britain and across the world”.

The design of the torch highlights that London is hosting the Olympics for the third time after 1908 and 1948.

The flame was handed over to the first torch-bearer, Greek world swimming champion Spyros Gianniotis, marking the start of an 1,800-mile journey through the country featuring 490 torch-bearers, Xinhua reports.

The final torchbearers will be Greek weightlifter and three-time Olympic Champion Pyrros Dimas and former Chinese gymnastics champion Li Ning.

The torch will be handed over to the Games’ organisers May 17 in Athens’ Panathenaic Stadium.

The 70-day relay around Britain will start at Land’s End May 19 and end with the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London July 27.

After the torch relay leaves Greece, it would leave the United Kingdom only once to pass through Ireland June 6.

The Olympic flame travelled around the globe in the last two editions of Beijing and Athens.

On the occasion, Rogge said London was ready for the sporting extravaganza.

“With this ceremony, we begin the final countdown to a dream that came to life seven years ago in Singapore. London is ready to welcome the world for the third time.”

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