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The flame was lit by a priestess, whose role was played by leading Greek film and theatre actress Katerina Lehou, in a ceremony staged in front of the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee President Lee Hee-beom were among those in attendance.
Once the flame had been ignited, Lehou handed it to the first torch relay participant, Greek skier Apostolos Angelis, the first of 16 torchbearers who each completed a three-minute leg on Tuesday afternoon as the flame travelled from Olympia to the Greek town of Pyrgos.
In a handover that symbolised the handover from the home of the Ancient Games to the host country of the forthcoming Winter Games, Angelis then passed the flame to former Republic of Korea and Manchester United footballer Park Ji-sung.
Park spoke of his delight at being involved in the ceremony. “As a sports person I have been watching the Olympics throughout my life, and I really wanted to participate, to be involved in the Olympics,” said the former football star. “We will show the world how we can organise a sports event.”
Park in turn handed the flame to Georgia Ellinaki, who, like fellow torchbearer Evangelia Moraitidou, was a member of the Greek women’s water polo team who won silver at the Olympic Games Athens 2004. Other Olympians featuring on the day included Eirini Aindili, who won a rhythmic gymnastics bronze at Sydney 2000, and sailor Sofia Papadopoulou, who won bronze at Beijing 2008.
During the next eight days, the flame will be carried by over 500 torchbearers as it covers more than 2,000km on a journey around Greece, eventually arriving at the Acropolis in Athens on 30 October. It will then travel to the Republic of Korea on 1 November, to coincide with the 100-days-to-go mark.
Overall, some 7,500 torchbearers will take part in the Olympic Torch Relay in Korea, which is presented by Coca-Cola, Samsung and KT, as the flame travels by plane, ship, train, zip wire, cable car and bicycle, as well as on foot, to PyeongChang ahead of the start of the Olympic Winter Games on 9 February next year.
“Our dream of hosting the Olympic winter Games has now become a reality,” said POCOG President Lee Hee-beom. “We want the international community to understand that we are committed to hosting safe and secure Games.”
The day before the lighting, the Mayors of Ancient Olympia, Ilida and Sparta signed a declaration of the Olympic Truce, which aims to bring to mind, once again, the significance of the Olympic Truce shortly before the XXIII Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 take place. The declaration was co-signed by President Bach and the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, as well as other prominent personalities and organisations. You too can sign the declaration electronically by visiting the site: http://petition.olympictruce.org. The Olympic Truce declaration that is traditionally proposed to the United Nations by the Games’ host nation will be voted on later this year.