Friday 20 April 2018

Olympic flame ceremony is hottest ticket in town

Helen William

An actress, dressed in floor-length pleated robes, lifted the burning torch from a parabolic mirror as if the light had been beamed by the gods directly from the sun's rays.

It was a ritualistic start to the Olympic flame's journey to Britain.

Only a select group of dignitaries witnessed the flame almost automatically burst into life in front of the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia.

They included a 15-strong delegation from London 2012, led by chairman Sebastian Coe.

A solo flautist played as the delegation returned to their seats in the Ancient Stadium to see the priestesses execute a graceful ritual dance.

The flame was placed in an urn, before the high priestess and priestesses gently carried it to the stadium where it was hit by a gust of wind. Then there was a puff of smoke.

It was relit from the mother flame.

The first torchbearer was Spyros Gianniotis, Greece's English-born World champion swimmer.

Mr Gianniotis, who has already booked his place at London 2012, which will be his fourth consecutive Olympics, proudly set off via Pierre de Coubertin's Grove.

He passed it on to 19-year-old Alex Loukos, who was one of the 30 East End schoolchildren who travelled to Singapore in 2005 as part of the closing presentations for London's bid.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge described the lighting as "the final countdown to a dream" which started when London was awarded the Games in 2005.

This special day has been a long time coming for Mr Coe. After the lighting, Mr Coe, a two-time Olympic champion, said: "For us this is now the best part of a decade."

Irish Independent

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