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Olympic flame lit ahead of Sochi Winter Games

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Media captionThe Sun's rays were used to light the Olympic flame during the ceremony

The Olympic flame-lighting ceremony for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi has been held in Greece.

At the ceremony, Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach urged Russia to uphold the values of the Games.

He said the torch was a symbol of friendship, excellence and respect "without any form of discrimination".

Russia's preparations for the February 2014 Games have recently been overshadowed by a controversial new legislation seen as anti-gay.

Women dressed in flowing white robes performed an elaborate dance before igniting the Olympic flame in the ruins of the Temple of Hera, in ancient Olympia, using reflected sun rays.

The flames were then used to light the first Olympic torch, which was carried by Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou.

The torch is expected to arrive in complete a 65,000-km journey (40,000-mile) before arriving for the opening ceremony of the Games in 123 days' time.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou carried the first Olympic torch.

Its journey will take in the International Space Station, the bottom of Russia's Lake Baikal, and Europe's highest mountain Mount Elbrus, as 14,000 torch-bearers visit all corners of Russia.

Mr Antoniou, wearing a white and red ski hat despite hot autumn sunshine, held the torch aloft and carried an olive branch as he ran the first leg of the relay from Olympia.

He then handed it to Russian ice hockey superstar Aleksandr Ovechkin.

Before the ceremony, Mr Ovechkin had declined to answer questions about Russia's new legislation which outlaws "homosexual propaganda among minors".

"I am just a hockey player. This is something for the politicians," he told Reuters.

Mr Bach, who was recently elected to succeed Jacques Rogge as Olympic president, said the Games should not be used for political ends.

"Just as in ancient Greece, the Olympic Games cannot settle political problems or secure lasting peace between peoples," he said in his speech.

"The Olympic flame thus reminds us to be aware of our own Olympic limits."

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