With just 78 days until the London 2012 Games begin and under sunny skies, the Olympic flame was lit in Ancient Olympia during a ceremony organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee. The flame was created using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror by the High Priestess – Ino Menegaki – at the Temple of Hera. It was then carried into the Ancient Olympic Stadium in a choreographed procession before being used to light the torch of the first torchbearer - British-born Greek open-water swimming world champion and three-time Olympian Spyros Gianniotis. The flame will now be taken on an eight-day relay around Greece before being handed over to the London 2012 Organising Committee during a ceremony in Athens at the Panathenaic stadium, before being taken to Great Britain, where the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay – presented by Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung – gets underway on 19 May.
IOC President Jacques Rogge said in his speech at the lighting: “With this ceremony, we begin the final countdown to a dream that came to life seven years ago in Singapore, when London was selected to host the 2012 Games. The energy that passes from the sun to the Olympic flame will light a torch that will travel from this birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games to the country that invented modern sport and the spirit of fair play, heralding the opening of the 2012 London Games on 27 July.” He continued, “As the Olympic torch travels the length and breadth of the United Kingdom on its way to the Olympic Stadium in London, its powerful symbolism and the inspiring stories of many of the torchbearers will touch hearts and fire imaginations around the world.”
London 2012 Chair Sebastian Coe said, “The Olympic flame lit today in Olympia will connect the ancient Games and the modern Games. Cities, towns and villages across Greece and Britain will be connected together and to the London 2012 Olympic Games forever. Sport has enduring and universal appeal, and the timeless Olympic values transcend history and geography; values which, I believe, in these challenging times, are more relevant than at any time before, particularly to young people all over the world.”
The second runner of the relay was Alex Loukos, a 19 year-old resident of Newham in London with a Greek father and British mother, who was also one of London 2012’s young ambassadors during the final bid presentation in Singapore in 2005. Speaking about running with the flame, he said, “It is an unbelievable honour to be a torchbearer in the Olympic Torch Relay, especially carrying the flame in Olympia and representing the city of London. I have grown up with London 2012 – from helping with the bid in Singapore when I was 12 to witnessing the incredible regeneration of my home in East London as the 2012 Games have taken shape and changed the area forever, and now with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one of the first to carry the torch for the London Games.”
Find out more about the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Presenting Partners.