London 2012: Olympic Games flame lit in Greece


The flame is lit using a mirror and the sun's rays, before being passed on to light the torch for the relay

The flame for the London 2012 torch relay and Olympic Games has been lit during a ceremony in Olympia, Greece.

It was kindled by actress Ino Menegaki, playing a high priestess, who caught the sun's rays in a parabolic mirror.

The flame went out briefly before being relit and transferred to the first torchbearer. The ceremony took place amid the Temple of Hera ruins, by the ancient Olympic Games stadium.

The flame flies to Britain on Friday 18 May for a 70-day relay around the UK.

At the temple ruins, actresses playing Olympic priestesses danced and men dressed as heralds put on a display symbolising athletic strength before the fire was ignited using the mirror.

Cameras caught the worrying moment the flame went out

The flame - an Olympic symbol meant to represent purity because it comes directly from the sun - was placed in an urn and taken to the stadium where the ancient Olympic Games were held.

It was transferred to a Greek torch which then "kissed" the London 2012 torch of Liverpool-born Greek world champion 10km swimmer Spyros Gianniotis.

He began to run with it on the first leg of its week-long journey around Greece.

Our correspondent James Pearce reported that the flame briefly went out while being held in an archaic pot at the side of the stadium, but the ceremony passed otherwise without incident in a country battling political and economic turmoil.

Chairman of the London games organisers, Locog, Lord Coe, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos were in Olympia for the moment that marks the countdown to London 2012.

Lord Coe told the BBC: "Today is the rallying call to the athletes - the best athletes of their generation - to come to London. That in itself is a big moment because it's the biggest sporting event in the calendar."

World champion swimmer Spyros Gianniotis with the torch Liverpool-born Greek swimmer Spyros Gianniotis was first to run with the torch

In his speech to assembled Greek and Olympic dignitaries and a crowd gathered on the slopes of the stadium he said: "We are reminded this morning of sport's enduring and universal appeal, and the timeless Olympic values that transcend history and geography; values which, I believe, in these challenging times are more relevant than at any time before and particularly to young people the world over.

"In 1948, shortly after the Second World War, my predecessor stood where I am today and made the first tentative steps in turning the world from war to sport.

"We find ourselves in challenging times again and turn to sport once more to connect the world in a global celebration of achievement and inspiration."

'Peace symbol'

Mr Rogge said that like the messengers in ancient times who shared news of the Olympic truce - the laying down of arms for the Games - "the torchbearers who carry this flame to London will spread the message of sport's capacity to promote peace and to make our world a better place".

He said: "We have come to the ancestral home of the Olympic movement to light a flame that will soon cast its glow over the entire world.

"The flame that we kindle here, from the pure rays of the sun, is a powerful symbol of the tradition and values that underlie our movement.

"It is a beacon for the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect... a symbol of fellowship and peace."

First torchbearer Spyros Gianniotis passes the flame to Alex Loukos The flame passed to first British torchbearer, Alex Loukos, with a torch "kiss"

First torchbearer Mr Gianniotis passed the torch on to Alex Loukos, 19, the first British torchbearer, a boxer and, in 2005, one of a delegation of east London schoolchildren who travelled to Singapore as part of London's final bid for the Games.

Mr Loukos said: "It feels like I'm coming full circle.

"I went out to Singapore and now I'm here, sort of kicking it off. It's a big honour and a privilege and I'm just trying to take it all in."

The torch is due to travel 2,900km (1,800 miles) through Greece, carried by 500 torchbearers, on a route circling the country and travelling out to the islands of Crete and Kastelorizo.

Map of torch relay route in Greece The Greek relay starts in Olympia and finishes in Athens, taking in Crete and Kastelorizo

Greece has seen huge demonstrations of social unrest in previous months, sparked by financial chaos and efforts to reach a deal with the European Union on a bail-out for its economy.

Talks to try to form a new government have been ongoing since elections on Sunday failed to produce a conclusive result.

And while Olympic leaders gathered for the pristine ceremony on Thursday, the economic crisis has hit Greek sport and games preparation.

Some Athens 2004 venues have fallen into disrepair and the country's athletics federation has suspended domestic events amid severe national funding cuts.

London 2012 Olympic torch relay

Torch relay graphic

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Several international companies including BMW have stepped in to help fund the torch's journey around Greece.

The Greek leg of the 2012 torch relay ends at the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, on Thursday 17 May, where the flame is handed over to London Olympic Games organisers.

The stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

The last torchbearers in Greece will be Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas and Chinese gymnast Li Ning - who lit the cauldron at the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony.

The 2008 Olympic torch relay, which travelled the globe, was dogged by pro-Tibet, democracy and anti-China protests.

The 2012 flame will travel straight from Greece to the UK on 18 May, flying into the Royal Navy airbase at Culdrose, near Helston in Cornwall.

London 2012 Olympic torch The torch will travel 1,800 miles through Greece and 8,000 in the UK

The UK torch relay begins at Land's End the following morning when three times Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Ben Ainslie will be the first to carry the torch on British soil.

He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: "It is a privilege for me to be asked but, more than anything, it is an exciting moment for the country.

"The arrival of the torch on home soil really brings home how close the Games are."

Olympic gold medal-winning track cyclist Sir Chris Hoy will carry the Olympic flame in Manchester on 23 June, he announced on Twitter.

Carried by 8,000 torchbearers, the Barber Osgerby-designed torch will cover 8,000 miles across all of the country's nations and regions.

It is due to reach the Olympic Stadium in Stratford on 27 July to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

For the ancient Greeks, fire was a divine element believed to have been stolen from the Gods.

A flame was first lit at the modern Olympics at the Amsterdam 1928 summer games, but it was not until Berlin 1936 that a torch relay route was set out from Greece to Germany.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    @ 107.sloaneegypt

    I absolutely think its worth it - a nice break from the media inflicted doom and gloom.

    Yes some people are losing/have lost their jobs but there are others out there if you're willing to look. My dad lost his job last year and has found work again 8 months and 64 applications later (and that's in manufacturing!)

    @ 106. MD

    Is it all sports you don't like or just athletics?

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.


    I think the Olympics are going to be great! Plus, I got loads of free tickets to the major events because I work for one of the banks that a are sponsoring the games. Brilliant!


    Good for you. I worked for a bank for thirty years and all I got was forced redunancy at 50 and a "rip off" pension.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I think you'll find the Greek economy is in crisis for many other reasons other than the fact it held the Olympics eight years ago. I believe the term "Global Recession" has been bandied around, successfully pointing this out...

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Ken secured the games for London now Boris is gonna get all the credit! It better be good ye ken or there'll be nae more Boris dancing doon ma street!

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    So many negative Waves! I didn't want the games, the cost was too much, but we have it now, lets make the best of it

    I'm p'd I didn't get tickets and living up North will see no benefit but my kids (5&9) want to see the torch so we're going, it might just be the spark for them to bigger and better things, if you don't like it fine but please stop the stereotypical British negative attitude

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I was watching the ceremony this morning on tv, full of a cold and I must apologise for sneezing and blowing the flame out. Then I thought if its that easy to blow it out, how on earth is it going to survive our British summer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    When I see all those fireworks burning I'll be thinking about all those houses that could of been built for our priced out children, and the lies the government keep saying about how we have no money to do such projects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Looking at the map, it looks like one of those crazy 'route-finder-gone-wrong' things you see where it sends you from Manchester to Leeds via Dublin. Maybe there is only the one road in Greece now due to austerity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    I'd have more respect for these people that are so against the Olympics if there hadn't been a certain point in history when they all appear to have noticed it's taking place. Specifically 12th May 2010.

    That said, I'm looking forward to the games but couldn't be less interested in the torch relay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.


    I bet you absolutely love bonfire night.... easily pleased? ;-)

    Apparently as easily as you are unpleased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    1 Minute Ago
    @109.Gordon - you need to take your own advice.
    Why? Only one space after a comma, so what are you referring to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    @ nic 121
    And which jobs will these young apprentices being going to exactly?.......

    Factually accurate AND true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Seeing some of these comments is very depressing!!! The Olympic will generate much need cash for the economy. Why can we not celebrate the world biggest sporting event instead of moarning about it. COME ON UK CHEER UP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I've just looked at the route in Worcester of the Olympic torch. I'm one of the lucky ones, it's going to pass right in front of me as my flat is above 1 of the streets it will be passing through.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Anyone notice the Editors' Picks are all pro-games, when the majority of comments are anti?

    Nice to see the unbiased view of the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    £9.2bm spent.
    Est. TEMPORARY local jobs created 10,000
    They must have money to burn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    ZZzz... ZZzz...

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    I hope that anyone who attempts to disrupt the Games will be arrested and charged with an offence under the prevention of terrorism act and then sentenced to lengthy imprisonment. Anyone who seeks to do that or to incite others to do must and will expect the full force of the law. 90% of Uk are 100% behind the games. The remaining 10% are beneath contempt and we'd be better off without you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Why are all the comments in the Editors' Picks gagging with enthusiasm about the Olympics, but all the Highest Rated ones point out that it's a huge rip-off in which we've paid billions we don't have so big business, the media and the political elite can have a big party to which we're not invited. I gues the BBC gets plenty of Olympics tickets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    "45. JJComment - Just think of all the unemployed builders if there was no olympics!

    Indeed. Mostly our Polish friends."

    Factually inaccurate and untrue.

    Thousands of BRITISH construction workers have been involved in the Olympic build, plus hundereds of young apprentices learning a new trade that will benenfit the UK for many years.


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