The flame was lit at the Temple of Hera using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror by a high priestess, who then used the flame to ignite the torch of 18-year-old Greek Alpine skier Giannis Antoniou, who was the first torchbearer of the relay.
The flame was then passed to ice hockey star and Sochi 2014 Ambassador Alexander Ovechkin, who became the first Russian torchbearer of the relay.
“It is especially honourable for me to be the first torchbearer of Russia,” said Ovechkin, “I'm very happy, and it means a lot to me. I am proud to be at the Lighting Ceremony in Olympia, which will start the biggest national relay in Olympic history.”
The lighting of the flame emphasises the connection between the ancient and modern Games. The Ancient Greeks considered fire to be a divine element, and they maintained perpetual fires in front of their principal temples. This was the case in the sanctuary of Olympia, where the Ancient Olympic Games took place. The flame was lit using the rays of the sun, to ensure its purity, and a skaphia, the ancestor of the parabolic mirror used today for lighting the Olympic flame. A flame burned permanently on the altar of the goddess Hestia, and such fires were also lit on the altars of Zeus and Hera, in front of whose temple the Olympic flame is lit today.
The Olympic flame has now embarked on a seven-day journey across Greece, which will see 250 torchbearers carry the flame 2,000 kilometres through 33 towns and 23 regions of the country. Torchbearers will include Olympic gymnastics champion Ioannis Melissanidis, Olympic high jump silver medalist Niki Bakogianni and Olympic pole vault bronze medal winner Georgios Roubanis.
The Greek leg of the relay will culminate in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens – site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 – on 5 October, when the official Olympic Flame Handover Ceremony will be held.
The following day, the flame will be flown to Moscow, where the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay will begin its 123-day journey around Russia, during which it will be carried by around 14,000 Torchbearers, covering over 65,000 kilometres as it visits all 83 regions of the country, travelling to within an hour of an estimated 90 per cent of the Russian population before reaching the Olympic Stadium in Sochi on 7 February for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Games.
Find out more about the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay Presenting Partners at http://torchrelay.sochi2014.com/en/Partners
More information on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay can be found at http://torchrelay.sochi2014.com/en/