posted on Mar, 25 2004 @ 06:10 PM
The countdown to the Athens
Games began in earnest on Thursday when the Olympic flame was ignited in Olympia.Security was tight around the ruins of Ancient Olympia, where the
Games were born in 776 BC, when Olympic high priestess Thalia Prokopiou, a 32-year-old actress performing for the third time, summoned the sacred
light of Apollo, with the help of a parabolic polished metal mirror.Athens is racing to get venues ready following delays in the contruction of key
Olympic sites and transport networks.The last time the flame was lit first time was for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
For the first time in history, the flame will visit all five continents represented by the Olympic rings on a 78-day world tour.The torch relay will
begin with a seven-day trip through southern Greece.Greek former javelin medallist Costas Gatzioudis was the first torch-bearer, handing over to
Russian swimmer Alexander Popov.Popov won two sprint gold medals at the 1992 Olympics, two in 1996 and a silver in 2000.Other prominent runners on the
first few days include Prince Albert of Monaco, who took part in former Winter Olympics, and legendary pole vaulter Sergei Bubka.
The flame will burn outside the marble Panathenian stadium, site of the first modern
games, until 4 June.It will then embark upon its world tour, with the Australian city of Sydney the first stop.The flame will make its first trips to
South America and Africa, and visit the United States from 16-19 June. Its route will include all of the nine cities bidding for the 2012 Olympics -
London, Paris, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Moscow, Istanbul and Leipzig.It is due in Paris on 25 June and in London the following day,
where it will make an appearance during the Wimbledon championships.