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Despite weather glitch, Paris Olympics flame lit at the Greek cradle of ancient games
4/16/2024 9:54:00 PM
Greece, Apr 16: The flame that is to burn at the Paris Olympics has been kindled at the site of the ancient games in southern Greece. Cloudy skies frustrated Tuesday's efforts to produce the flame in the customary fashion, when an actress dressed as an ancient Greek priestess uses the sun to ignite a silver torch.
Instead, a backup flame was used that had been lit on the same spot Monday, during the final rehearsal.
The flame will next be carried from the ruined temples and sports grounds of Ancient Olympia by a relay of torchbearers. The 11-day journey through Greece culminates with the handover in Athens to Paris 2024 organizers.
A priestess prays to a dead sun god in front of a fallen Greek temple. If the sky is clear, a flame spurts that will burn in Paris throughout the world's top sporting event. Speeches ensue.
On April 16, the flame for this summer's Paris Olympics will be lit at the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games in southern Greece in a meticulously choreographed ceremony.
It will then be carried through Greece for more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) before being handed over to French organizers at the Athens venue used for the first modern Olympics in 1896.
Here's a look at the workings and meaning of the elaborate ceremony held among the ruins of Ancient Olympia ahead of each modern Olympiad.
Couldn't the Academy Awards just be announced in a conference call? The pageantry at Olympia has been an essential part of every Olympics for nearly 90 years since the Games in Berlin. It's meant to provide an ineluctable link between the modern event and the ancient Greek original on which it was initially modelled.
Once it's been carried by any means imaginable to the host city - it's been beamed down by satellite, lugged up Mount Everest and towed underwater - the flame kindles a cauldron that burns in the host Olympic stadium until the end of the games. Then it's used for the Paralympics.
An actor playing an ancient Greek priestess holds a silver torch containing highly combustible materials over a concave mirror. The sun's rays bounce off every inch of the burnished metal half-globe and come together at one extremely hot point, which ignites the torch. This happens inside the archaeological site at Olympia, before the ancient temple of Hera - wife of Zeus, king of the Greek gods, whose own ruined temple lies close by. The flame is eventually used to light the first runner's torch - champagne-colored this year for France - and a long relay through Greece leads to the April 26 handover at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens. Flames and sandals make for an impressive spectacle, and while the priestess' largely tongue-in-cheek prayer to Apollo might not be answered, the parabolic mirror works well. The idea was the result of Greek-German cooperation ahead of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, which were heavy on fanfare - and swastikas. It was based on a mechanism mentioned by ancient writers in a non-Olympic context, and served the desire to blend the games of antiquity with the modern revival.
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