Tokyo Olympic flame begins journey in Greece amid virus precautions


The flame for the Tokyo Olympics was lit Thursday at the birthplace of the ancient games in a pared-down ceremony due to the coronavirus.

Standing in front of the ruined Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia, a Greek actress playing the part of a pagan priestess used a concave mirror to focus the sun’s rays on a silver torch, causing fire to spurt forth.

After a seven-day relay through Greece, the flame will be delivered to Tokyo organising officials next week at a ceremony in the rebuilt ancient stadium in Athens where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Hollywood actor Gerard Butler also announced that the coronavirus outbreak will not scare him away as he arrives in Greece to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay. The actor, who portrayed the legendary King Leonidas in ‘300’, will run with the torch from the Byzantine town of Mystras to Sparta.

The ceremonial part of Thursday’s flame-lighting was held with customary mock-archaic splendour: Young men and women dressed in pleated robes, a prayer to Apollo — the ancient Greek god of light — and dancing to flutes and drums under a splendid blue sky as blackbirds sang.

But fears of the coronavirus forced Greek officials to ban members of the public from attending the ceremony and severely curtail the number of invited officials and journalists. Normally, several thousand people from many countries gather on the earthen banks of Olympia’s ancient stadium to watch the ceremony.

Sourced by: Associated Press




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