Olympic Torch relay en route to London for a second time
ANCIENT OLYMPIA, May 11, 2012- The Olympic flame began its journey to London with a simple but moving ceremony in Olympia.
Classical actress Ino Menegaki kindled the flame from the rays of the sun in a ritual little changed since the first torch relay in 1936, though it wasn't entirely without a hitch.
Estiada (senior priestess) Nefeli Mastrali had to return to the temple of Hera after a freak gust of wind to blew out the flame before it had been passed to the first runner.
World open water champion Spiros Gianniotis was the first to receive the flame. He was born in Liverpool but won gold at the 2011 world championships for Greece.
"No words in Greek or English can explain how I feel," he said.
He carried the torch to the Coubertin Grove, to pay tribute to the founder of the modern Olympic Games , before handing to 19 year old Alex Loukos, born close to the Olympic Park in the East End of London.
Loukos had been part of a group of youngsters who went to Singapore with the London bid team back in 2005.
"With this ceremony, we begin the final countdown to a dream that came to life seven years ago in Singapore," said IOC President Jacques Rogge.
"The torch relay will touch hearts and fire imaginations around the world," he said.
"This special flame will carry with it a message of peace and friendship," said London 2012 Chairman Lord Coe who marked his return to Olympia for the first time since 1975 with an early morning run.
"It will shine a light on this country. We will place young people at the centre of our torch relay just as de Coubertin placed young people at the centre of his Olympic vision," he said.
The flame left Olympia on a week -long journey across Greece and visited the island of Crete for the first time.After a handover ceremony in Athens, the first United Kingdom leg of the relay will begin at RNAS Culdrose when three time Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie will carry the first torch.