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Berlin welcomes the Youth Olympics flame

Berlin is the only European stop for the flame lit ahead of the first-ever Youth Olympics. Thousands cheered as a torch was lit in the German capital at the beginning of the flame's world tour in the run-up to the games.

Left to right, former gymnast Ronny Ziesmer, pentathlete Eric Krueger and junior basketball player Lena Gohlisch lighting the flame

The torch was lit in front of thousands at a city landmark

The flame for the first-ever Youth Olympics arrived in Berlin at the start of a worldwide tour after it was lit at the birthplace of the games in Greece.

After arriving at the city's Tegel airport on Saturday morning, the flame travelled along the Spree River and past the Reichstag parliament building before arriving at the Brandenburg Gate.

A torch holding the flame was lit just before 2pm local time by former gymnast Ronny Ziesmer, along with junior basketball player Lena Gohlisch and pentathlete Eric Krueger.

Basketball star Dirk Nowitzki, left, and young rower Felix Bach on the stage

Basketball star Dirk Nowitzki handed over the flag to a young athlete

"In this historic place, we are celebrating the future of Olympic sport. We are experiencing a wonderful day," said German Olympic Federation (DOSB) president Thomas Bach.

About 10,000 spectators were present, according to the DOSB, with the stage surrounded by flags of European nations due to take part in the games.

German bobsled champion Andre Lange and Dallas Mavericks basketball star Dirk Nowitzki also took part in the event by presenting German flags to rower Felix Bach and diver Kieu Duong, who will be flag bearers in Singapore.

Traditional ceremony

On Friday, in accordance with tradition, an actress dressed as a priestess had lit the flame at the Temple of Hera in Olympia using the rays of the sun.

Some 3,500 athletes aged 14-18 from 200 countries are preparing for the inaugural Youth Olympics, which will be held in Singapore in August.

An actress playing a priestess lighting the torch

The torch was lit at the home of the games in Greece

"It is a proud and special moment to have witnessed the Youth Olympic flame being lit for the first time," said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge at the ceremony in Greece.

"It is our hope that young people around the world will feel the spirit of the Youth Olympic Games."

On the path to Singapore

The next stop for the flame is the Senegalese capital Dakar, ahead of Mexico City, Auckland and Seoul.

As the torch was lit on Friday, some 70 young German athletes were meeting in Berlin for a seminar, part of a cultural training program that is a requirement for all the country's participants.

The German Olympic Federation (DOSB) has said that a shared experience for athletes, and the possibility to meet sportsmen and women from around the world, is more important than medals.

Germany will be represented in 20 out of 26 sporting categories at the games.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa/SID/Reuters/AP)

Editor: Susan Houlton

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