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25 Mar 2004
IOC News

Countdown to Athens 2004 begins today with the lighting of the Olympic flame

The countdown to the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad in Athens began today with the lighting of the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia, Greece. Ignited by the rays of the sun in a traditional ceremony at noon, the flame was carried to the ancient stadium of Olympia, where it was viewed by the public, media and invited guests of the Hellenic Olympic Committee.

Several speakers

Several speakers made remarks at the event, including International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Hellenic Olympic Committee President Lambis Nikolaou and the Mayor of Olympia, Giannis Skoularikis.

"It began in Olympia"
"It was in Olympia that everything began; and today that everything is going to begin for Athens 2004,"said IOC President Jacques Rogge.

"It takes our tradition to a higher level"
“Today we light a torch that will truly light the world”, said the President of the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games in Athens (ATHOC), Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. She continued: “This year’s relay takes our tradition to a higher level. For the first time ever, an Olympic Torch Relay will truly circle the globe, celebrating peace and Olympism around the world and in Greece, as we prepare for the homecoming of the Olympic Games.“

Historic first seven days
The flame will travel from Ancient Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC, through the Peloponnese, the islands of the Saronic Gulf, and finally to the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Highlights, images and information about the historic first seven days in Greece will be available on the official Athens 2004 website:

Pass the flame to 34 cities worldwide
“Pass the flame, unite the world” is the theme of the Athens 2004 Torch Relay, which will take the flame to 34 cities worldwide, including every city that has hosted the Games of the Olympiad, as well as Beijing, 2008 host city, and other selected cities on the international route. The flame will be carried by more than 11,000 torchbearers throughout the world and Greece.

Coca-Cola and Samsung Presenting Partners
”Today’s lighting of the Olympic flame is very special to The Coca-Cola Company, as it marks the fourth time that we have served as a Presenting Partner of the Olympic Torch Relay”, said Doug Daft, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company.
“We are honoured that the relay enables Samsung to bring such a unique sporting icon to communities and peoples across the globe, unifying and inspiring them to celebrate the best in humanity”, said Jong Yong Yun, Vice Chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics.

Related story with photo gallery

Learn more on the Torch Relay - Official website of Athens 2004
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