Olympic torch lit in Olympia
25 Mar 2008 15:17
The Olympic torch has been lit in front of the Temple of Hera on the historic grounds of Olympia, in the birthplace of Olympism, where the Ancient Olympic Games took place. The flame was lit successfully by a Holy Priestess, according to the traditional ritual, using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror.
Following the mythical lightning, the priestess entered the Ancient Olympic Stadium with the torch and handed it over to the first runner of the Beijing 2008 Torch Relay. The young man passed by the tomb where Pierre de Coubertin’s heart is buried, to launch the long journey of harmony of this Relay. The torch will be crossing five continents and stopping in 21 cities around the world before reaching China, where it will stop in over 100 places. On 8 August, it will enter the Olympic Stadium in Beijing during the Opening Ceremony to light the Olympic cauldron.
Before the ceremony in Olympia, IOC President Jacques Rogge made the following statement:
‘The lighting of the Olympic Flame in Olympia is a time to reflect on the role of the IOC. The main responsibility of the IOC is to deliver the best possible Olympic Games to the athletes, who deserve it.
We do this in a close and intense collaboration with the Beijing Organizing Committee.
Awarding the Olympic Games to the most populous country in the world will open up one fifth of mankind to Olympism.
We believe that China will change by opening the country to the scrutiny of the world through the 25’000 media who will attend the Games. The Olympic Games are a force for good. They are a catalyst for change, not a panacea for all ills.
NGOs and Human Rights’ activists want to leverage the Games and ask the IOC to act along by their side.
The IOC respects NGOs and activist groups and their causes, and speaks regularly with them - but we are neither a political nor an activist organization.
As I stated last weekend, the events in Tibet are a matter of great concern to the IOC. The IOC has already expressed the hope that this conflict should be resolved peacefully as soon as possible. Violence for whatever reason is contrary to the Olympic values and spirit.
The IOC will continue to respect the cause of the Human Rights. The IOC will work tirelessly with China for the welfare of the athletes and the success of the Olympic Games.’