London 2012: “We turn to sport to connect the world” - Seb Coe at Olympic Flame lighting

The Olympic Flame has been lit in an ancient ceremony in Greece watched by London 2012 chief Seb Coe and Newham teenager Alex Loukos.

The ceremony, organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), was held inside the Temple of Hera at the historic ruins of the home of the ancient Olympic Games.

Lord Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), said the lighting connected the ancient and modern Games, and that the values of the Olympic were relevant in today’s challenging times.

He said: “Sport has enduring and universal appeal, and the timeless Olympic values transcend history and geography; values, which, I believe, in these challenging times are more relevant than at any time before, particularly to young people all over the world.

“This is the second time representatives of the UK have gathered here to celebrate the lighting of the Olympic Flame.

“In 1948, shortly after the Second World War, my predecessor stood where I am today and made the first tentative steps in turning the world from war to sport.

“We find ourselves in challenging times again and turn to sport once more to connect the world in a global celebration of achievement and inspiration.”

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Following traditional ceremonial rites, the Olympic Flame was lit at noon local Greek time, 10am in Britain, by the High Priestess, Ino Menegaki.

During the one hour ceremony the High Priestess used a parabolic mirror to capture the sun’s rays at the temple in Ancient Olympia and light the torch.

The flame was then taken into the Ancient Olympic Stadium.

It will now go on an eight-day relay around Greece, started by British-born Greek 10km swimming world champion Spyros Gianniotis.

The second torchbearer will be Alex Loukos from Newham. The 19-year-old, who went to Langdon School, East Ham, who was one of the youngsters making up part of the London 2012 Bid Team in Singapore in 2005.

Alex, whose father is Greek, was selected by LOCOG to carry to the Olympic Flame in Olympia.

He said: “It is an unbelievable honour to be a Torchbearer in the Olympic Torch Relay, especially carrying the Flame in Olympia and representing the city of London.

“I have grown up with London 2012 – from helping with the bid in Singapore when I was 12, to witnessing the incredible regeneration of my home in East London as the 2012 Games have taken shape and changed the area forever, to now with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one of the first to carry the Torch for the London Games.”

The lighting ceremony was preceded by the UK and Greek national anthems, the recital of ‘The Light of Olympia’, and speeches by people including Spyros Zannias, chairman of the Olympic Torch Relay Commission, Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee and Lord Coe.

Mr Rogge said: “The lighting of the Olympic flame in ancient Olympia is always a moment of great significance for the Olympic Movement.

“As the Olympic torch receives the flame and is held aloft by the first Torchbearer, we are reminded through its light of the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect that it carries on its journey.

“The London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay will celebrate those values, as it tours the country that invented modern sport and the spirit of fair play.

“It will also celebrate the many inspirational Torchbearers, who, like the athletes that will compete in London this summer, will help to inspire a generation, as they invite the world to gather and celebrate the Games of the XXX Olympiad.”

The Olympic Flame will travel from Athens to the UK on May 18, landing in the evening at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, ahead of the start of the Olympic Torch Relay on May 19.

The relay will last 70 days and cover 8,000 miles, with 8,000 people carrying the torch for approximately 300 metres each during the torch’s journey.