• Saturday, May 25, 2024

ATHLETICS

Paris 2024: Olympic torch lit in ancient birthplace of the Games

This ceremony started the torch relay, which will travel through Greece and France, culminating with the lighting of the Olympic flame in Paris during the opening ceremony.

Due to overcast weather, Greek actress Mary Mina, portraying the role of a high priestess, used a backup flame rather than the traditional parabolic mirror to light the torch. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

The Olympic torch for the Paris 2024 Games was officially lit in ancient Olympia on Tuesday, initiating the final phase of the seven-year preparations for the Games, set to begin on July 26.

Due to overcast weather, Greek actress Mary Mina, portraying the role of a high priestess, used a backup flame rather than the traditional parabolic mirror to light the torch.

This ceremony started the torch relay, which will travel through Greece and France, culminating with the lighting of the Olympic flame in Paris during the opening ceremony. Paris will be hosting the Summer Olympics for the third time, following its 1900 and 1924 Games.

During the event, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach emphasised the significance of the occasion, stating, “In these difficult times we are living through, with wars and conflicts on the rise, people are fed up with all the hate, the aggression, and negative news they are facing day in and day out. We are longing for something which brings us together, something that is unifying, something that gives us hope. The Olympic flame that we are lighting today is the symbol of this hope.”

The IOC has decided that Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete at the Olympics as neutral competitors, without national symbols, due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, a decision that has provoked criticism from Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also called for a ceasefire in Ukraine during the Olympics, a suggestion that has been skeptically received by the Kremlin, suggesting it could allow Ukraine to regroup militarily.

The torch was first passed by the high priestess to Greek Olympic rowing champion Stefanos Ntouskos, the first runner of the relay. Ntouskos then handed off the flame to Laure Manaudou, a three-time Olympic medalist in swimming and the leader of Paris’ Olympic torch relay, representing the host city.

After completing its journey across Greece, the flame will be formally handed over to the Paris Games organizers in Athens’s Panathenaic Stadium on April 26. The flame will then travel to France on April 27 aboard the three-masted ship ‘Belem,’ arriving in Marseille on May 8, where a large turnout is expected for the ceremony in the Old Port. The final torchbearer in Marseille will scale the roof of the Velodrome Stadium on May 9, as per the organizers.

Marseille, originally founded by Greek settlers around 600 BC, will host the sailing events. The French segment of the torch relay will last 68 days and conclude in Paris with the lighting of the Olympic flame on July 26.

(Reuters)

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