The torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi was lit on Sunday at a ceremony at the site of the ancient games in Greece.
Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach urged Russia to uphold the values of the Games.
He said the torch was a symbol of friendship, excellence and respect "without any form of discrimination".
Russia's preparations for the Games in February have recently been overshadowed by controversial new legislation seen as anti-gay.
Women dressed in flowing white robes performed an elaborate dance before igniting the Olympic flame in the ruins of the Temple of Hera, in ancient Olympia, using reflected sun rays.
The flames were then used to light the first Olympic torch, which was carried by Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou.
The BBC reports the torch is now on a 65,000km journey before arriving for the opening ceremony of the Games.
Mr Bach, who was recently elected to succeed Jacques Rogge as Olympic president, said the Games should not be used for political ends.
"Just as in ancient Greece, the Olympic Games cannot settle political problems or secure lasting peace between peoples," he said.
"The Olympic flame thus reminds us to be aware of our own Olympic limits."