With 132 days to go until the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, the Olympic flame was lit today in Ancient Olympia, Greece, during a ceremony organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC).
The lighting marks the symbolic start of the Olympic Torch Relay, which will see the flame cover over 65,000 kilometres and all 83 regions of Russia, as well as travelling to within an hour of an estimated 90 per cent of the Russian population before reaching the Olympic Stadium in Sochi on 7 February for the Opening Ceremony.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, making his first official trip in his capacity as IOC President, delivered a speech in the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, IOC member in Greece Lambis Nikolaou, IOC honorary member, King Constantine, Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spyros Kapralos, and a delegation from Russia that included IOC members Vitaly Smirnov, Shamil Tarpischev and Alexander Zhukov, the Mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, and the CEO of the Organising Committee for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Dmitry Chernyshenko.
“The flame lit today by the Greek sun takes on the responsibility for a peaceful celebration here and now; the torches will carry it into the Olympic future,” said President Bach. “Thus the Olympic Torch Relay will be a messenger for the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect without any form of discrimination. In the coming months, this message will reach and inspire people from all walks of life. The goal and culmination of this journey will be the Olympic Stadium in Sochi. There, the Olympic flame will remind all the athletes, participants and spectators of our Olympic values.”
Using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror, the flame was lit by a high priestess at the Temple of Hera. The priestess then used the flame to ignite the torch of the first runner of the Relay, 18-year-old Greek Alpine skier Giannis Antoniou.
The Olympic flame will make a seven-day journey across Greece, travelling through 27 municipalities before arriving in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, on 5 October for the official Olympic Flame Handover Ceremony. On 6 October, the flame will be flown to Moscow, where the Olympic Torch Relay – presented by Coca-Cola, Ingosstrakh and Russian Railways – will begin its 123-day journey around Russia. About 14,000 torchbearers are expected to carry the torch.
(IOC Press Release)