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Olympic flame lighting ceremony begins in Ancient Olympia

September 29, 2013, 14:21 UTC+3

The ceremony takes place in an ancient Greek Temple of Hera

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ANCIENT OLYMPIA (Greece), September 29 (Itar-Tass) -The ceremony of lighting the flame of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi started in Ancient Olympia in the west of the Greek Peloponnese Peninsula.

The ceremony takes place in an ancient Greek Temple of Hera and at the historic ancient stadium of Ancient Olympia, where the first Olympic Games in the history of mankind took place centuries ago.

The Ancient Olympia flame lighting ceremony is attended by President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach, President of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Greece Spyros Kapralos, head of the Sochi 2014 organising committee Dmitry Chernyshenko and other officials.

On Saturday, a dress rehearsal of the ceremony was held at the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia in the presence of dozens of local and foreign reporters, during which a “backup” flame as lit on the altar of the ancient Greek Temple of Hera. On Sunday, the sun is shining brightly again at Olympia, so tradition will be maintained also during the official ceremony. The flame is lit by a parabolic mirror during a theatrical performance with a group of “priestesses,” performing a ceremony that is based on ancient traditions with the introduction of modern elements. After that the “priestess” give the flame at the ancient Olympic stadium to the first torchbearer - a young Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou. He, in turn, is to give the flame to Russian ice hockey player Alexander Ovechkin.

After Ancient Olympia, the torchbearers will run 2,000 km on Greek territory and on October 5 will bring the Olympic flame to the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens, where in 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were held. The Olympic flame will be handed over to the Russian side there.

It is not known who founded the Olympic Games. The myths have at least three different versions. The main one is as follows: the Games were founded by King and national hero of Peloponnese Pelops, who beat King Oinomaos of Pisa in chariot races. Obviously, the competition at Olympia had been held also before the VIII century BC, but the traditional date of the first Olympics is 776 BC. In the VII-VI centuries there was long struggle between Eleans and Pisatis for the right to host the Games, and the Eleans won in the end. The introduction of the Olympic Truce, a period which all the wars between the Greek city-stop, dates back to the same era. The VI-V centuries BC were the heyday of ancient Olympics.

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