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Flame of 2016 Olympics lit up in Greece

April 21, 17:52 UTC+3 ATHENS ATHENS April, 21. /TASS
Greek gymnast Elefterios Petrunias, a world champion, was the first torchlight bearer
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© EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS
© AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
© AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
© EPA/ALEXANDROS VLACHOS
© EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS
© EPA/ALEXANDROS VLACHOS
© EPA/ALEXANDROS VLACHOS
© EPA/ALEXANDROS VLACHOS
© EPA/VASSILIS PSOMAS
© AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

ATHENS, April 21. /TASS/. The flame of the 2016 Olympic Games has been lit up in a special ceremony in front of a ruined Greek temple in Ancient Olympia on the Peloponnese Peninsula.

After the ceremony the first phase of the Olympic torch relay along the roads of Greece began. Greek gymnast Elefterios Petrunias, a world champion, was the first torchlight bearer.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, in his address before the ceremony described the Olympic torch as a symbol of peace, kindness and humanitarian values.

"Three thousand years ago the ancient Greek civilization here first celebrated the Olympic Games. It was on this exact spot that the first Olympic Games were held and the unique gift of the Greeks to humankind was born. We are grateful to Greece and the Greeks until this very day for their great gift to humanity and the human values….We are reminded of the power of sport to bring people together in peace. Today we are paying tribute to this great heritage. Then as now the Olympic Games are a message of hope and peace. Today is one of the rare moments when the past and the future of humanity connect…" Bach said.

"The Olympic values are eternal values. They were as relevant in ancient times as they are today. Like no other human activity sport is about bringing people together in the spirit of friendship and respect. Sport always builds bridges. Sport never erects walls. In a world shaken by crises the message of our shared humanity is more relevant than ever before. Together with our friends from Brazil we are writing history today. For the first time the Olympic Games will be held in South America. This milestone proves their universality…Rio de Janeiro with the support of all Brazilians will provide a spectacular stage to showcase the best of the human spirit," he stressed.

Brazil’s national phase of the Olympic torch relay will begin on May 3 in the capital Brasilia to end in Rio de Janeiro on the opening day of the Olympic Games - August 5. During the 95-day-long relay the Olympic flame will travel a distance of 20,000 kilometers on the ground and another 10,000 miles by air to visit 329 cities and communities around Brazil. A total of 12,000 torch bearers will take part in the event.

The ritual of lighting the Olympic flame dates back to the ancient Olympic Games in Greece. It is a reminder of the legend of titan Prometheus, who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to human beings as a gift. The modern tradition was revived in 1928, at the Amsterdam Olympics, when the Olympic flame was for the first time lit at the main stadium. And in 1936, before the Olympic Games in Berlin, a torch relay was held for the first time in modern history.

The 31st summer Olympics will be held on August 5-21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It will be the first Olympics to be hosted by a Latin American country. Paralympics will take place several weeks later, on September 7-18.

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