ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece - The flame that will burn during the London Games was lit at the birthplace of the Ancient Olympics on Thursday, heralding the start of a torch relay that will culminate with the opening ceremony on July 27.
Actress Ino Menegaki, dressed as a high priestess, stood before the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera, and after an invocation to Apollo, the ancient Greeks' Sun God, used a concave mirror to focus the sun's rays and light a torch.
The triangular torch is designed to highlight the fact that London is hosting the Olympics for the third time. It also staged the games in 1908 and 1948.
Under bright sunny skies there was no need for the backup flame that was used during the final rehearsal for the Olympic torch lightning a day earlier.
After the choreographed ceremony, the priestess handed the flame to the first torchbearer, Greek swimmer and Olympic silver medallist Spyros Gianniotis.
The 32-year-old Gianniotis, the Liverpool-born son of a Greek father and a British mother, is the first in a line of 490 torchbearers to carry the flame across 2,900 kilometres (1,800 miles) on Greek soil before the flame will handed over to London organizers on May 17 in Athens.
Gianniotis then handed over the torch to 19-year-old Alex Loukos, born of a Greek father and British mother and raised in the east London borough of Newham next to the Olympic Park.
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