Paris 2024: Lighting the flame of the Olympic Games in the cradle of the ancient Greek Games

Paris 2024: Lighting the flame of the Olympic Games in the cradle of the ancient Greek Games

ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP) — Even without Apollo's help, the flame that would burn in… Paris Olympics It was ignited on Tuesday at the site of the ancient games in southern Greece.

Overcast skies prevented that Traditional lightingwhen an actress dressed as an ancient Greek priestess uses the sun to ignite a silver flame – after offering a symbolic prayer to Apollo, the ancient Greek sun god.

Instead, she used a spare torch that had been lit in the same place on Monday, during the last training.

Actress Marie Mena, who plays the High Priestess, right, lights the torch during the official torch lighting ceremony for the Paris Olympics, at the site of Ancient Olympia, Greece, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanasis Stavrakis)

Usually, first of all from a group of Priestesses in long pleated dresses He dips the fuel-filled torch into a parabolic mirror on which the sun's rays are focused and a fire breaks out.

But this time she didn't even try, and headed straight for the spare flame, kept in a copy of an ancient Greek vessel. Ironically, a few minutes later the sun rose.

From the ancient stadium at Olympia, a succession of bearers will carry the torch along a 5,000-kilometre (3,100-mile) route through Greece, including several islands, until it is handed over to Paris Games organizers in Athens on April 26.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said the lighting of the torch combines “a pilgrimage to our past in ancient Olympia, and an act of faith in our future.”

The first torchbearer, Greek Olympic gold medalist Stefanos Doskos, right, passes the torch to the first French torchbearer, three-time Olympic medalist Laure Manaudou, near the monument to Pierre de Coubertin, in the background, after the official torch-lighting ceremony for the Olympic Games Paris, at the site of ancient Olympia, Greece, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanasis Stavrakis)

The first torchbearer, Greek Olympic gold medalist Stefanos Doskos, right, passes the torch to the first French torchbearer, three-time Olympic medalist Laure Manaudou, near the monument to Pierre de Coubertin, in the background, after the official torch-lighting ceremony for the Olympic Games Paris, at the site of ancient Olympia, Greece, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanasis Stavrakis)

“In these difficult times… with the escalation of wars and conflicts, people are tired of all the hatred, aggression and negative news,” he said. “We long for something that brings us together; something that unites; something that gives us hope.”

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Thousands of spectators from around the world packed Olympia for Tuesday's event amid ruined temples and sports stadiums where ancient games were held from 776 BC to 393 AD.

The sprawling site, nestled in a fertile valley at the confluence of two rivers, is at its most beautiful in spring, filled with pink-blooming Judas trees, tiny blue irises and the occasional red anemone.

Greek authorities maintained tight security around Olympia on Tuesday, after protests by human rights activists disrupted the lighting ceremonies for the Summer and Winter Games in Beijing. Armed police stopped incoming vehicles and checked for explosives, while police dogs combed the ground.

The first torchbearer was Greek rower Stefanos Doskos, the 2021 gold medalist in Tokyo. Run to a nearby memorial containing a heart French Baron Pierre de Coubertinthe driving force behind the modern gaming revival.

The next runner was Laure Manaudou, a French swimmer who won three medals in Athens in 2004. She handed the job to senior EU official Margaritis Schinas, who is Greek.

The International Olympic Committee's Bach praised the Paris organizers for doing a “fantastic job” with the Olympics Preparations For matches from July 26 to August 11.

He also highlighted its environmental impact, saying so Cleaning efforts It will make it possible to swim in the River Seine, which runs through Paris, “for the first time in a hundred years.”

IOC politics briefly reared their heads at Olympia as well, where the heads of two sports federations criticized track and field leader Sebastian Coe for breaking Olympic tradition last week by… Promising financial reward $50,000 for each of the gold medalists in Paris. The money will be paid from the share of Olympic revenues that the IOC pays to the governing bodies of Olympic sports.

UCI president David Lappartint complained that Coe had not consulted other sports before announcing his move.

“We really believe that this is not the Olympic spirit,” Lappartint said. “If we focus money… only on top athletes, only on gold, then of course a lot of opportunities for athletes around the world will disappear.”

Coe was widely expected to run for the IOC presidency, which is due to become vacant in 2025. Lappartient is close to Bach and is increasingly seen as a potential successor.

From Greece, the Olympic flame will set off from the port of Piraeus in Athens Belema French three-masted sailing ship built in 1896 – the year of the first modern games in Athens.

According to Captain Aymeric Gibet, this is scheduled to take place on May 8 in the port of Marseille in southern France, a city founded by Greek colonists about 2,600 years ago.

Performers take part in the official torch lighting ceremony for the Paris Olympics, at the site of Ancient Olympia, Greece, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Performers take part in the official torch lighting ceremony for the Paris Olympics, at the site of Ancient Olympia, Greece, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Belem arrived in Katakolo, near Olympia, on Monday. Among the spectators was a small, enthusiastic group of tourists from the northwestern French region of Brittany, where the ship's main port of Nantes is located, waving French and Breton flags.

“We thought it would be a unique opportunity to see the flame burning at the historic site of Olympia,” said Jean-Michel Basquet from Lorient, near Nantes. “And when we also learned that Belém would carry the torch…we said we had to do it.”

But Baskett said he would have to watch the Paris Games from home.

“For us, going to the event venues will be too expensive and unaffordable,” he added. “So we'll watch them on TV…from our chairs.”

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Graham Dunbar in Geneva, Switzerland, and Theodora Tonga in Ancient Olympia contributed.

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AP Olympiad https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

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