| In this photo providede by the Greek Olympic Committee, Greek actress Ino Menegaki, playing the role of High Priestess, holds the Olympic flame during the torch lighting ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games at the site of ancient Olympia in Greece May 10, 2012. (Xinhua) |
At 12:11 a.m. local time, Greek actress Ino Menegaki acting as High Priestess kindled the sacred flame using the sun's rays and a concave mirror among the ruins of the Temple of Hera, the ancient Greek mythology goddess.
"Apollo, King of the sun, and the Idea of light, send your rays and light the sacred torch," she said in a "prayer" to the God of Sun in Greek mythology, before transporting the flame in a replica of an ancient urn to the Stadium, where the first Olympic athletes competed some 2,800 years ago.
Following a dance performance by actors in the roles of priestesses and priests, Menegaki lit the Olympic torch with the sacred flame and handed it over to the first torchbearer, Greek world swimming champion Spyros Gianniotis, as the crowed erupted in applause.
Gianniotis, born in Liverpool in 1980, who will be among the athletes competing in London this summer, then passed the Flame to Alexander Loukos, another British athlete of Greek origin, kicking off the torch relay.
The ceremony marks the start of a week-long torch relay, which will take it to five major Greek archaeological sites, including the Acropolis, before it arrives at the old Olympic stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Games in 1896.
A British delegation will receive the flame at a night-time ceremony on May 17 at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens, where the first modern Olympic Games where held in 1896.
The last flame-bearers in Greece will be the weight-lifter Pyrros Dimas and the Chinese gymnast Li Ning, who lit the cauldron at the last Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
From there, the flame will travel to Britain for a 70-day torch relay covering a further 12,800 kilometers across the United Kingdom also visit the Republic of Ireland before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium in east London on July 27.
"It is our wish that the leaders and citizens of the world be inspired and moved by the Olympic light so they shall work for world peace and welfare," mayor of Olympia Efthymios Kotzias said during his opening speech at the start of Thursday's ceremony.
"The flame that we kindle here from the pure rays of the sun is a powerful symbol of the traditions and values that underlie our movements. ... the torchbearers who carry this flame to London will spread the message of sport's capacity to promote peace and to make our world a better place," Jacques Rogge said in his last address at such a ceremony as the IOC chief, as he steps down from the post in a few months.
Underlining the fact that London is the only city to host the Games twice (the first time in 1948), London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe expressed confidence that the flame and the Games "will lift the spirits and hopes of people across Britain and across world."