| |Scene of the lighting ceremony
The Olympic torch has been lit today in front of the Temple of Hera on the historic grounds of Olympia, in the birthplace of Olympism, where the Ancient Olympic Games took place. The flame was lit successfully by a Holy Priestess, according to the traditional ritual, using the sun's rays and a parabolic mirror.
Passing by the tomb of Pierre de Coubertin
Following the mythical lightning, the priestess entered the Ancient Olympic Stadium with the torch and handed it over to the first runner of the Beijing 2008 Torch Relay. The young man passed by the tomb where Pierre de Coubertin's heart is buried, to launch the long journey of harmony of this Relay. The torch will be crossing five continents and stopping in 21 cities around the world before reaching China, where it will stop in over 100 places. On 8 August, it will enter the Olympic Stadium in Beijing during the Opening Ceremony to light the Olympic cauldron.
Harmony and peace
In the presence of Greek President Karolos Papoulias; the President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Minos X. Kyriakou; and the President of the Organising Committee for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Liu Qi; IOC President Jacques Rogge underlined "that the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay wants to be a journey of harmony, bringing the message of peace to people of different nationalities, cultures and creeds".
Tribute to the firemen
Before the torch lighting ceremony, President Rogge also took the opportunity to pay tribute to the firemen who took part in the heroic fight to save Olympia from the flames last autumn.
Following the tragic fires that raged in Greece, the IOC President wrote to the Greek Prime Minister to offer the condolences of the Olympic Movement, and express its gratitude to and admiration for the fire-fighters and volunteers who risked their lives to save others. He sent his thanks in particular to those who saved Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, the site where the heart of Baron Pierre de Coubertin rests, and the headquarters of the International Olympic Academy. The IOC President wrote "it is a great tragedy which has struck Greece and its people, and I should like to express our deepest sympathy with all those who have been affected. Although it is of secondary importance faced with the loss of human life, I should also like to express our gratitude to all those who took part in this heroic fight to save Olympia".