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January 24, 2008

The Beijing Olympic flame was ignited in a traditional sun-ray ceremony on 11:45 on Monday at the Hera Temple of Ancient Olympia.
Dark clouds over Olympia troubled Olympic flame lighting rehearsal parted at last Monday with a flawless torch lighting ceremony heralding the unprecedented torch relay.
The High Priestess Maria Nafpliotou lit the flame out of a concave, burnished steel mirror. Then the flame was transported in a replica of an ancient urn to the ancient Olympia stadium where it was to kindle the first Olympic torch.
High Priestess Maria Nafpliotou handed over the torch to the first torchbearer, 2004 Olympic silver medallist in taekwondo (80kg) Alexandros Nikolaidis, who carried it to kick off the relay in Greece, across five continents and China.
Prior to the lighting, Nafpliotou and 20 female priestesses -- all wearing pleated white dresses and sandals -- performed an ancient ritual. Following a short dancing ceremony on the slope of ancient Olympia stadium, the High Priestess ignited the first Beijing Olympic torch.
The Olympic Anthem, the National Anthem of China, the National Anthem of Greece were played and the Olympic Flag, the Chinese Flag and the Greek Flag were hoisted before the lighting ceremony.
The speeches were given by the mayor of Ancient Olympia Georgios Aidonis, President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge, President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Minos Kyriakou as well as the President of the Beijing Organizing Committee of Olympic Games Liu Qi.
The sacred flame will pass through 16 prefectures, 43 municipalities, 12 municipality districts, and 4 communities inthe hands of 605 torchbearers. En route, a total of 29 ceremonies will be held to celebrate the flame.
The torch will roam the island for six days, staying one night each in Mesologi, Ioannina, Vera, Thessaloniki, and Lamia, after which it will reach Athens.
The Olympic flame is to arrive in Beijing on March 31. A welcome ceremony will be held at Tian'anmen Square, heart of the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games.
Xinhua News

January 24, 2008 - Lighting of the Flame in Ancient Olympia

The Torch Relay for the Beijing Olympic Games will last seven days on Greek territory, after the Lighting of the Flame in Ancient Olympia, on the 24th of March. The Olympic Flame will cover in Greece 1.528 kilometers by the hands of 605 bearers.

The torch relay will pass through 16 Prefectures, 43 Municipalities, 4 Communities and there will be organized 29 ceremonies in specific cities along the route of the torch relay.

The Olympic Flame will be lit in Ancient Olympia at 12.00 o clock in the afternoon and will be handed over to the Organizing Committee of Beijing on the 30th of March, at 15.00 at the Panathenaikon Stadium, the place where the history of the first Modern Olympics Games began, in 1896.

January 22, 2008 Greece approves replanting at Ancient Olympia
Effort made to green site in time for flame-lighting ceremony in March

ATHENS, Greece - Greece approved an emergency plan to plant thousands of trees at the fire-ravaged birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, hoping to green the site in time for the Beijing 2008 flame-lighting ceremony in March.
Work is expected to start next week at the 2,800-year-old site of Ancient Olympia, whose once-lush forests were wiped out by August's wildfires that killed 66 people in southern Greece.
Project officials pledged Tuesday that some 30,000 trees and bushes would be in place by mid-March.
The ceremonious lighting of the flame for the Beijing Games is on March 24. The replanting has been delayed for more than two months, and Greece's Olympic Committee warned last week that unless work starts soon the country risks "international disrepute."
"Planting will start in the next few days," said Maria Mathioudi, general secretary of Greece's National Agricultural Research Foundation, which drew up the rescue plan. "There will be teams working day and night, we have to meet the deadline."

The ancient Games were held in Olympia between 776 B.C. and A.D. 394. Forests around the site were obliterated by Greece's worst wildfires on record, but firefighters kept the flames at bay just short of the ruined temples and stadium.
The replanting will cost $3.9 million, to be covered by a donation from the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, which is providing an additional $1.9 million for replanting around Ancient Olympia by 2010.

The plans approved Tuesday by senior Culture Ministry officials aim to restore the area according to the descriptions of ancient writers. Workers will be planting cypresses, olive trees, pines, poplars and Judas trees up to 8 feet tall, as well as laurel and oleander bushes.
Some 3,000 cypress saplings will be imported from Italy, Mathioudi said.
Top priority will be given to the fringes of the archaeological site, including the Hill of Kronos and the Coubertin Grove, where the heart of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, is buried.

The carefully orchestrated flame-lighting ritual has been held at Ancient Olympia before every Olympics since the 1936 Berlin Games.
Kneeling in front of the ruined Temple of Hera, an actress in the white gown and sandals of an ancient high priestess lights the Olympic flame using a concave mirror to focus the sun's heat on a silver torch.

January 17, 2008 Time running out for Ancient Olympia woods

ATHENS, Greece - Greece's Olympic Committee said Thursday that work to replant fire-ravaged woods at the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games was far behind schedule, and urged "drastic improvement" before the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.
The conservative government has pledged to replant the area around the site, following the descriptions of ancient writers, in time for the March 24 ceremony.

But the Hellenic Olympic Committee, or HOC, said work was badly delayed.
"If the current situation does not improve drastically in the immediate future, our country will be brought into international disrepute and one of the Olympic movement's top events will be dramatically discredited," an HOC statement said.
"We express our deepest concern at the progress of the work at the site, given the very tight time schedule."

Officials at the Culture Ministry, which is responsible for replanting at the World Heritage site, were not immediately available for comment.

Ancient Olympia, in the western Peloponnese, a lush beauty spot where the ancient Games were first held in 776 B.C, suffered extensive damage from the summer wildfires the worst on record that killed 66 people in southern Greece. Firefighters kept the flames at bay just short of the 2,500-year-old ruined temples and stadium, but the surrounding forests were obliterated.

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said last year that the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics would be conducted "in the best way possible," while 3,200 bushes and trees would be planted on the Hill of Kronos that overlooks the site.
The carefully orchestrated ritual has been held at Ancient Olympia before every Olympics since the 1936 Berlin Games.

Kneeling in front of the ruined Temple of Hera, an actress in the white gown and sandals of an ancient high priestess lights the Olympic flame using a concave mirror to focus the sun's heat on a silver torch.

January 24, 2008
A group of Greek and international scientists visited the World Heritage site Saturday to deliver funds for reconstruction of the area, which was ravaged by the wildfires that destroyed vast tracts of forest in southern Greece in August and killed more than 65 people.

A large replanting effort is under way ahead of March 25, when the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.