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Olympic Torch Lit In Greece; Countdown Begins To London Summer Games

A priestess holds an olive branch and the lit Olympic torch. i i

hide captionA priestess holds an olive branch and the lit Olympic torch.

Petros Giannakouris/AP
A priestess holds an olive branch and the lit Olympic torch.

A priestess holds an olive branch and the lit Olympic torch.

Petros Giannakouris/AP

In a simple yet formal ceremony, Greece ignited the Olympic flame that will be taken to London for the Summer Games.

Greek actress Ino Menegaki, playing the role of an elegant high priestess, used a mirror to direct sunlight to light the flame. She was surrounded by other people playing the roles of priestesses and heralds at the ancient Temple of Hera, home to the ancient Olympic Games, notes Reuters. Tradition dictates that the Olympic flame be ignited by the sun, says the Independent.

The flame blew out once during the ceremony, but was quickly re-lit, says AP. Menegaki then handed the flame to the first torchbearer, Spyros Gianniotis, a Greek swimmer and Olympic silver medalist. Nearly 500 torchbearers will carry the flame over a meandering path inside Greece until it's given to London Olympic officials.

Runners will not carry the torch through Europe to Britain like in 2008, when the Olympic relay drew political protests in several countries. Greek Olympic officials will hand it off to British organizers on May 17. The BBC says 8,000 torchbearers will then spend more than two months relaying it around Britain before the Games open July 27.

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