The Olympic flame reached Athens yesterday for the first time since it was lit at a ceremony on 25 March 2004 in Olympia, Greece.
The flame has spent the past seven days travelling around the Peloponnese islands and the islands of Argosaronikos, from where it will be taken to the Greek capital.
The lighting of the flame took place in Olympia and was organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee. In a time-honoured ceremony, an actress dressed as a high priestess lit an Olympic torch in the Temple of Hera using a parabolic mirror, which captures the rays of the sun. The flame was then passed on to the first torchbearer, Kostas Gatsioudis, before setting off on its 365-kilometre journey to the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens.
The flame arrived at the Panathinaiko Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, at 7 p.m. (local time) last night. The torch was carried into the Stadium by Ekaterini Thanou, Greece's silver medallist in the 100m at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Many high-ranking Greek dignitaries and a large crowd were present to welcome the flame to Athens for the first time this year, before its anticipated return for the Opening Ceremony of the Games this August. The flame will stay in the Stadium until 2 June, when it will set off on the global leg of its relay.
International Torch Relay Route
The international Torch Relay will unite all five continents, represented by the five Olympic rings, as its 78-day journey sees it travel across the world. The flame will leave Greece for 35 days and will cover a distance of 78,000 kilometres. For 1,500 of these kilometres it will be in the hands of 3,600 torchbearers. The flame will travel to Africa and Latin America for the first time, as well as visiting all previous Summer Olympic cities and Beijing, the host city of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Coca-Cola and Samsung are the presenting partners of the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay.