23 Oct 2009

Winter Olympics torch relay gets underway

11:29 am on 23 October 2009

The torch relay for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics has started, with the sun's rays igniting the silver torch during a brief break in the clouds at the ancient Olympic stadium in Greece.

It is the first time in the last four Winter Games' torch-lighting ceremonies that the back-up flame from the previous day's dress rehearsal at the site of the ancient Olympics did not have to be used.

Actress Maria Nafpliotou, playing a High Priestess calling on sun god Apollo, knelt in front of a parabolic mirror reflecting the sun's rays that seconds later ignited the torch.

The ceremony kicked off an eight-day torch relay throughout Greece, including the country's ski resorts, before the torch is handed over to Vancouver Games organisers in the Panathenian stadium in Athens, site of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

On October 30th the flame will arrive in Canada for the biggest-ever domestic relay, covering 45,000 kms and ending in Vancouver on February 12th, the date of the Games opening ceremony.