The Olympic torch relay is officially under way after a traditional ceremony at the birthplace of the Games in the Greek town of Olympia.
At a ceremony at the Temple of Hera in the Greek city of Olympia on Thursday, a woman acting as high priestess and wearing a traditional Greek dress used the sun's rays to light the Olympic torch, officially kicking off the torch relay that will end at the opening ceremony of the London Games on July 27.
The first torch bearer was Spyros Gianniotis, a Greek swimming champion born in Liverpool. He will then pass the torch to the first British-born torch bearer, 19-year-old Alexander Loukos, who is of Greek heritage. After an eight-day tour of Greece, the Olympic torch will be flown to London, where it will begin its 70-day, 8,000-mile journey around the United Kingdom.
Before the torch was lit using a parabolic mirror to focus the sun's rays and light the flame, a number of officials, including London Olympics Organizing Committee president Sebastian Coe and International Olympic Chairman Jacques Rogge, gave brief speeches to a crowd of spectators sitting on a grassy hill near where the ceremony took place.
"We promise to protect the flame; to cherish its traditions and to stage an uplifting torch relay of which we can all be proud and which can inspire a generation," said Coe, who is a two-time Olympic gold medallist in the 1,500 meters. "As torchbearers lift the Olympic flame in the days and months ahead, it is our hope that they will also lift the spirits and hopes of people across Britain and across world."
Over 7,000 people will participate in the torch relay once it gets to London, and organizers say the Olympic flame will pass within an hour of 95 percent of the population in the United Kingdom.
mz/ncy (AFP, Reuters)