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Olympic torch falls prey to gust of wind at lighting ceremony as it begins its journey from Greece


It begins: Ino Menegaki at the lighting ceremony

It begins: Ino Menegaki at the lighting ceremony

It begins: Ino Menegaki at the lighting ceremony

THE Olympic torch has begun its journey after surviving a scare when the sacred flame was extinguished shortly before it was used to light the 'cheese grater'.

A gust of wind put the flame out as it was being carried out in a bowl from the temple of Hera, where it had been lit from the rays of the sun, into the ancient stadium in Olympia.

The Priestess carrying the flame had to leave the arena and re-light the bowl from a lamp that had been lit earlier as insurance against the flame going out.

The London torch was then successfully lit and the first leg of the relay was run through the ancient Olympic stadium by Liverpool-born Greek swimming world champion Spyros Gianniotis.

He handed the torch to Alex Loukos from Newham, 19, who was a member of the victorious London bid team in Singapore in 2005.

The torch will travel around Greece for a week before arriving in Cornwall on Friday May 18.

The following day it will begin a 70-day journey during which it will be carried by 8,000 members of the public and celebrities.

The Olympic Torch's tour of Ireland begins on Sunday June 3 with four days in Northern Ireland.

There will be a short ceremony near the border as the torch travels to the Republic, with the handover between Irish Olympic boxing legends Wayne McCullough, from Belfast, and Michael Carruth, from Dublin. Irish President, Michael D Higgins, will greet the first Dublin torch bearer in a ceremony outside the offices of the Olympic Council in Howth.

More than 40 torch bearers will carry the Olympic flame through the streets of Dublin when it tours the only city outside the UK.

Eurovision hopefuls Jedward, former international footballer Paul McGrath and Tony Sutherland, father of the late Olympic boxer Darren, are among the latest list of relay runners revealed.

The torch will return to Northern Ireland before continuing over to the UK.

Its journey will end with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in the stadium.

Addressing dignitaries and a large crowd gathered in the stadium London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said: "This morning’s ceremony reminds us of the core mission and responsibility of London 2012 – to inspire young people.

"We will place young people at the centre of our torch relay, just as de Coubertin placed young people at the centre of his Olympic vision.

"We are inspired just by being here, in a location where the peoples of the ancient world gathered and competed in legendary athletic contests.

"Through this unique location we are able to connect the ancient Games and the modern Games.

"We are also 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 all over the world.

"This is the second time the people of the UK have gathered here to celebrate the igniting of the flame. 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."

The flame was lit by an actress playing the role of a High Priestess, who ignited the torch using a parabolic mirror in front of the Temple of Hera.

What happens to the flame now?

- MAY 10 The torch is lit using the sun’s rays in ancient Olympia at 9.30am. The first torchbearer, Greek open-water swimmer Spyros Gianniotis, departs at 10.25am.

- MAY 11-16 The torch travels around Greece, visiting Crete, Thessalonika, Piraeus, Xanthi and Larissa before arriving in Athens, where it is welcomed at a special ceremony at the Acropolis.

- MAY 17 The handover ceremony takes place at the Panathenaic Stadium before the Locog delegation take the flame back to the UK.

- MAY 18 The 70-day UK leg of the torch relay begins at Land’s End at 6am, with 8,000 people involved.

- JUNE 03 The Olympic Torch's tour of Ireland begins. 41 torch bearers will take part in a six hour dash with the flame.

- JULY 27 The flame arrives at the Olympic Stadium in London. The Games begin.