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SPORT: Olympic flame lit in Ancient Olympia today to start Bejijng 2022

Photos: Copyright: IOC/Greg Martin

The ceremony in Olympia held under strict conditions, with only a limited delegation present. The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach,  the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou; the members of the IOC Executive Board; and the IOC’s Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission Chair, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

The Chinese delegation was led by IOC Vice-President, Special Representative and Vice-President of Beijing 2022 and Vice-President of the Chinese Olympic Committee Yu Zaiqing. The ceremony was hosted by the Hellenic Olympic Committee President,  IOC member Spyros Capralos and the Mayor of Olympia, Georgios Georgiopoulos.

Representing Beijing 2022, Yu Zaiqing said: “This is a historic moment as we are gathering here in the ancient city of Olympia to celebrate the lighting of the Olympic flame for the XXIV Olympic Winter Games.The Olympic flame embodies our unswerving pursuit of excellence. It highlights our resolve to always challenge our limits and surpass ourselves. And it sheds light on our journey ahead, to overcome difficulties with greater solidarity and closer cooperation. Amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, the Olympic flame has brought us confidence, warmth and hope. It has been a source of strength in our fight to defeat the pandemic.

Photos: Copyright: IOC/Greg Martin

Photos: Copyright: IOC/Greg Martin

In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, the Olympic Games always build bridges. They never erect walls.The foundation for the ancient Olympic Games to take place in peace was a sacred truce – the ekecheiria. This Olympic Truce ensured a halt to hostilities, allowing athletes and spectators to travel safely to Olympia and home again. The ekecheiria demonstrates that already the ancient Greeks understood that for the Olympic Games to unfold their unifying power, they must stand above any political conflict. In this way, already 3,000 years ago, there was an inseparable link between the Olympic Games and peace. This peace mission, handed down to us since ancient times, requires that the Olympic Games be respected as politically neutral ground.

IOC President Thomas Bach declared

The traditional ceremony, held near the Temple of Hera, celebrates the Olympic Games’ Greek heritage, connecting the modern Games to their historic origins.
After the Olympic flame was lit by the High Priestess, it began its journey with Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou, an Olympian who also assumed the role of first torchbearer for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. The flame was then passed to Chinese Olympian Li Jiajun, a winner of five medals in speed skating at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games (two silver and three bronze medals).

After the ceremony, the Olympic flame will be transported to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where on 19 October the official handover to the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee will take place before the flame departs for China. A welcome ceremony will be held in Beijing on 20 October, with the flame initially going on display to the public at the Beijing Olympic Tower before setting off on a flame exhibition tour. Closer to the Games, a traditional Olympic Torch Relay will be held. More information will be announced by the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee after the arrival ceremony on 20 October.

Around 2,900 athletes, representing approximately 85 National Olympic Committees, will compete in what will be the most gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games in history, between 4 and 20 February 2022.

Photos: Copyright: IOC/Greg Martin

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