POSTED: October 22nd 2009

Vancouver's Winter Games flame is off and running - in peace

The Olympic flame: ultimate historic symbol of the Games /
The Olympic flame: ultimate historic symbol of the Games /

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT / Sports Features Communications

ATHENS: The 2010 Winter Olympic Games has sparked literally into life at the birthplace of the ancient Games in Olympia. A Greek actress in a pagan priestess' white gown and sandals lit the flame by focusing the early-morning rays of the sun on a silver torch via a concave mirror.

A relay will take the flame across Greece and Canada before it burns throughout the Vancouver Games between February 12-28.

This time the weather played its part after bad conditions disrupted the flame ceremony ahead of not only the the 2000 Sydney Summer Games but also the past three Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998, in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin in 2006.

John Furlong, ceo of the Vancouver organising committee, said: “More than just a sporting event, the Games offer us a unique moment to serve the cause of humanity and celebrate the human spirit."

Trouble-free start

The ceremony passed off without trouble despite Vancouver officials’ concerns about anti-seal-hunt activists. Protests during the international torch relay ahead of the 2008 Beijing Games led to the IOC and London 2012 organisers deciding to to scrap the international leg.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said the Olympic torch conveyed a global message "of friendship and respect." He added: “The Olympic torch and flame are symbols of the values and ideals which lie at the heart of the Olympic Games."

Greek giant slalom skier Vassilis Dimitriadis, 31, was the first torchbearer to run out of the ancient stadium. After an eight-day relay through Greece, the torch will be handed over to Canadian officials at the restored ancient Panathenaean Stadium in Athens on October 29. The subsequent 106-day relay across Canada will feature 12,000 torchbearers.

Cauldrons were lit during the ancient games, held in Olympia from BC 776 to AD 394 but the first modern torch relay was staged for the 1936 Berlin Games with its Winter debut at Innsbruck Olympics in 1964.

Keywords · 2010 Winter Olympic Games · IOC · Ancient Olympia · torch · international torch relay · Furlong

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