Olympic Flame in British hands
ATHENS, May 18, 2012 - David Beckham was on hand to help collect the 2012 Olympic flame for London, but even he was upstaged by the weather in Athens.
The Greeks joked “It was to make our guests feel at home.”
The heavens opened as the ceremony began with the arrival of the presidential guard ( Evzones) and the downpour continued until the torch bearers arrived in the stadium. Three-time Olympic weightlifting champion Pyrros Dimas, a national hero in Greece carried the flame to the cauldron, accompanied by legendary Chinese gymnast Li Ning. After his exploits on the high wire at the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing four years ago, he kept his feet firmly on the ground this time.
The priestesses set the tone for the evening with a dance that was simple yet moving, before British Olympic Association President HRH The Princess Royal received the flame,and Greek schoolchildren exchanged olive branches with their British counterparts to symbolise peaceful understanding between nations.
"It remains the only timeless symbol which sparks off feelings of awe, pride and loyalty in the ideals and values of Olympism," said Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spiros Capralos was probably making ready to resume his water polo career when the rains finally stopped.
The torch begins a 70 day odyssey around the British Isles at Land's End. Three-time Olympic sailing gold medallist Ben Ainslie is the first of 8,000 torchbearers in a journey which ends at the Olympic stadium on July 27.
"I've seen it so many times at Games. There is something about the torch starting out on domestic soil when people just think right, seventy days time it is starting," said London 2012
Chairman Lord Coe. "There is no better way of signalling that."
"I am honoured and eager to live a great moment," Ki Ning, the medallist in gymnastics in the 1984 Los Angeles Games said during a visit at the Hellenic Olympic Committee' s headquarters ahead of the ceremony that took place at Panathinaikon Stadium, the marble venue of the first modern Olympics over a century ago.
Li was chosen unanimously by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) to join Greek Olympic medallist in weightlifting Pyrros Dimas (1992-2004) as the last torchbearers inside the stadium to emphasize the continuity of the Olympics from Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 to London this year.