Kindled by the sun’s rays, the Olympic torch was lit on Sunday in the ancient Greek city of Olympia. In a ceremony filled with mystery and tradition, the torch began its 65,000-kilometer journey to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014.
The ceremony included a theatrical performance in the ancient Temple of Hera during which priestesses asked the Greek God Apollo to send the sun’s rays to earth to light the flame of the Olympic Games. The main condition of the ceremony is the absence of any artificial sources of fire. The Olympic Torch is always lit using the sun’s rays, reflected on a large parabolic mirror which is used to symbolize the approval of the Gods to host the games.
Apart from the main torch, the flame also lit special lamps to store the Olympic fire in case the main flame or even a fire at the Games themselves will go out for any reason.
After the flame was kindled women dancers performed the ancient “Dance of the Nymphs” and male dancers the“Feast dance without weapons”, signifying the rejection of hostilities during the Olympic Games.
“We hope that the light sends a message to all the countries about the Olympic truce,” the choreographer of the ceremony told RT.
The flame was handed to the first torchbearer, Greece’s 18-year-old alpine skier Ioannis Antoniou. Once he finishes his stretch of the relay, Antoniouwill pass the symbol of the modern Olympics to the first Russian relay runner, the ice hockey star Aleksandr Ovechkin.
250 torchbearers will carry the flame 2,000 kilometers through 33 towns and 23 regions of Greece until October 5, when it arrives at the old Olympic stadium in Athens, the site of the first modern Games in 1896, where the Russian delegation of the 2014 Sochi winter games will receive the torch.
The Russian route, which is expected to last 123 days, will start on October 6 in the capital Moscow.
The marathon will be the longest in the history of the Winter Games, with 14,000 runners are scheduled to carry the torch through 2,900 towns across Russia’s 83 regions by car, train, plane, Russian troika and reindeer sleigh, said head of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee Dmitry Chernyshenko on Saturday.
“In Russia, the torch will be lowered into the water of the Lake Baikal and will visit the highest point in Europe Mount Elbrus,” said Chernyshenko, adding that to the North Pole the Olympic flame will be delivered on a nuclear icebreaker.
Ninety percent of the Russian population will be within an hour’s reach of the Relay, he added.
The Sochi 2014 committee also confirmed that the torch will be the first in history to travel in space, approximately 400km to the International Space Station (ISS) on board of the Soyuz TMA-11M manned spaceship.
“Nobody has done this before. The spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts with the Sochi 2014 Olympic torch will be a historic moment in the history of the Olympic torch relay,” said head of the organizing committee at a press conference dedicated to the event.
The runners humbled by the experience will deliver the flame to the host city of Sochi on February 7 on the opening day of the Winter Games to a worldwide television audience of billions.