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Olympic torch lit for Sochi 2014 games

The Olympic flame has been lit in Ancient Olympia in Greece ahead of its long journey to the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The torch will even take a trip into space before its arrival.

The torch was lit on Sunday using a parabolic mirror focusing the sun's rays at a ceremony in the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, with actresses dressed as priestesses in attendance. Dignitaries at the ceremony included the new president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.

After a short relay in Greece, the flame will travel to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, arriving there on October 5 to kick off a 123-day journey that will end at the opening ceremony back in Sochi on February 7.

On its way across Russia's nine time zones, the torch will travel to outer space, the bottom of Lake Baikal, the North Pole and Europe's highest peak, Mount Elbrus. It will be carried by a record 14,000 torch-bearers.

"Just as in ancient Greece, the Olympic Games cannot settle political problems or secure lasting peace between peoples," Bach told guests at Sunday's ceremony.

"The Olympic flame thus reminds us to be aware of our own Olympic limits," he said.

The ceremony was Bach's first official assignment as IOC president since succeeding Jacques Rogge in the position.

Sochi is the first Russian city to stage a Winter Olympics. Ahead of the Games, Russia has faced mounting criticism over a law prohibiting "gay propaganda."

Many fear homosexual athletes at the Games could face discrimination or even legal consequences under the law.

tj/hc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)