28 November, 2005
The Olympic flame was passed to a first torchbearer at the ancient Olympia archaeological site on Sunday after clouds scattered over the Peloponnese sky following days of rain, thereby officially beginning the countdown for the 2006 Winter Games of Turin.
The flame was lit at the site a day before the official ceremony, with Sunday's torch expected to be turned over to Turin organizers on Dec. 6 during a ceremony at Athens' U-shaped Panathinaiko Stadium, the venue for the first modern Games in 1896 and the finish line for the marathon race during the 2004 Athens Games.
Similar to the routine of previous torch-lighting ceremonies, Sunday's affair was a solemn and well-rehearsed event, with a local actress dressed as an ancient high priestess offering a traditional entreaty to the mythical Olympus gods of Apollo and Zeus. The flame is usually lit with a concave steel mirror to focus the sun's rays on a silver torch.
The Olympic flame will reach Turin on Feb. 10 to mark the opening of the 20th Winter Games after an Italy-wide torch relay begins in Rome on Dec. 8.
Among the dignitaries at Sunday's ceremony were Turin Organizing Committee President Valentino Castellani, Greek Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, Hellenic Olympic Committee (EOE) Minos Kyriakou, who also relayed a message by IOC President Jacques Rogge, along with a bevy of elected officials.
Source: Athens News Agency