For previous Olympiads, the Olympic Flame has literally travelled around the world, carried underwater, flown into space and taken to the summit of Mount Everest. It was first ignited at Ancient Olympia in July, 1936. Today’s ceremony celebrated the 80th anniversary since that inaugural occasion, as always observing the ceremonial ritual with the lighting of the Olympic torch at the altar of Hera, using the rays of Greek sunlight as the source. People from all over the world – from the US to Siberia – gathered at Olympia to enjoy the location’s superb setting and experience the unique lighting ceremony, which serves as a potent reminder to all of the ancient roots of the modern Olympics, as well as the Olympic values and ideals.
The features of this year’s event make it particularly unique. The costumes worn for the ritual, designed by Greek-British designer Eleni Kyriakou, a student of Alexander McQueen, contain color. Also, one refugee has been selected among the torch bearers to cover the relay’s extensive Greek crossing, sending a symbol of hope and support for migrants and the hardship they are suffering as a result of their displacement. Crucially, for the Olympic movement, the Olympic flame will light an Olympiad in Latin America for the first time ever.
Greek artistic gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias, the reigning World and European champion on the still rings, was the first torch bearer of the relay launched today. It was then passed on to Brazilian volleyball legend Giovane Gávio. Some 12,000 athletes will carry the Olympic torch along its journey to Brazil. After covering 2,235 kilometers around Greece, the Olympic flame will be flown to Lausanne, where it will be kept at the Swiss city’s Olympic Museum for a few days before being placed on a flight for Brasilia, the Brazilian capital. It is scheduled to arrive in Brazil on April 27, where it will be taken through 83 cities and 500 towns, before making its triumphant entry into Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana Stadium on August 5 for the opening ceremony to mark the beginning of the 2016 Rio Olympics.