The Olympic Torch that will illuminate the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, starting on Feb. 7, was lit Sunday in the ruins of Olympia, after which it began its first journey through Greece.
The lighting of the torch took place in an ancient stadium in southern Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics and was attended by Thomas Bach, the new International Olympic Committee, or IOC, president, who was making his first official trip since taking over the post on Sept. 10.
The Temple of Hera was once more the site of the symbolic act where at 11:45 a.m. (0945 GMT) an actress dressed as an ancient Greek priestess ignited the torch over a concave mirror focusing the sun's rays.
Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou was the first relay runner for the torch which, traditionally, will now be taken on a tour of Greece, after which on Oct. 5 at the Panathinaikos Stadium in Athens the sacred flame will be handed over to Russian authorities and two days later will begin its months-long tour around the Games' host country.
The Olympic flame will traverse some 65,000 kilometers (40,300 miles) through Russia, the longest such tour in the history of the Winter Olympics. It will pass through more than 2,900 communities and will be carried by more than 14,000 torchbearers before arriving at the Olympic Stadium in Sochi on Feb. 7, 2014, the date of the Games' inaugural ceremony.
The Winter Olympics are set to run from Feb. 7 through 23.
Among the torch's relay runners will be the first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, and Olympic gymnastics champion Alexei Nemov, but the big moment for the torch will be its trip into space on Nov. 9, when it will be taken to the International Space Station.
The organizing committee for the Games also intends to have the torch taken to Mt. Elbrus, Russia's highest peak, and to the bottom of the deepest lake on the planet, Lake Baikal. EFE