Olympic flame lit in Greece
ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP):
The flame that will burn during the London Games was lit at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics yesterday, heralding the start of a torch relay that will culminate with the opening ceremony on July 27.
Actress Ino Menegaki, dressed as a high priestess, stood before the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera, and after an invocation to Apollo, the ancient Greeks' Sun God, used a mirror to focus the sun's rays and light a torch.
The triangular torch is designed to highlight the fact that London is hosting the Olympics for the third time. It also staged the games in 1908 and 1948.
Under bright sunny skies there was no need for the back-up flame that was used during the final rehearsal for the Olympic torch lighting a day earlier.
After the choreographed ceremony, the priestess handed the flame to the first torchbearer, Greek swimmer and Olympic silver medallist Spyros Gianniotis.
The 32-year-old Gianniotis, the Liverpool-born son of a Greek father and a British mother, was the first of 490 torchbearers who will carry the flame across 1,800 miles of Greek soil before the flame is handed to London organisers on May 17 in Athens.
Gianniotis then handed over the torch to 19-year-old Alex Loukos, born of a Greek father and British mother and raised in the east London borough of Newham next to the Olympic Park.
"It is an unbelievable honour to be a torchbearer ... especially carrying the flame in Olympia and representing the city of London," Loukos said. "I have grown up with London 2012 - from helping with the bid in Singapore when I was 12, to witnessing the incredible regeneration of my home in East London."
From Greece, the flame will travel to Britain for a 70-day torch relay covering another 8,000 miles across the United Kingdom. In contrast to the two previous Summer Games, where the Olympic flame relay went around the globe, it will leave the UK only once to pass though Ireland on June 6.