No Thanks to Apollo, Olympic Flame Is on Its Way

Traditional lighting ceremony in Greece suffered a bit of a glitch, but fire happened anyway
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2024 12:26 PM CDT
Paris' Olympic Flame Gets a Move On
Actress Mary Mina, playing a high priestess, right, lights a torch during the official ceremony of the flame lighting for the Paris Olympics at the Ancient Olympia site in Greece on Tuesday. The flame will be carried through Greece for 11 days before being handed over to Paris organizers on April 26.   (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Even without the help of Apollo, the flame that is to burn at the Paris Olympics was kindled Tuesday at the site of the ancient games in Greece. Cloudy skies prevented the traditional lighting, when an actress dressed as an ancient Greek priestess uses the sun to ignite a silver torch—after offering up a symbolic prayer to Apollo, the ancient Greek sun god. Instead, the AP reports that she used a backup flame that had been lit Monday, during the final rehearsal. Normally, the foremost of a group of priestesses dips the fuel-filled torch into a parabolic mirror that focuses the sun's rays on it, and fire spurts forth. But this time she didn't even try, going straight for the backup flame. Ironically, a few minutes later the sun shone forth.

Thousands of spectators from all over the world packed Olympia for Tuesday's event amid the ruined temples and sports grounds where the ancient games were held from 776BC to AD393. From the ancient stadium in Olympia, a relay of torchbearers will carry the flame along a 3,100-mile route through Greece until the handover to Paris Games organizers in Athens on April 26. It's due to arrive on May 8 in the southern French port of Marseille, a city founded by Greek colonists some 2,600 years ago. (France is ready to move the opening ceremony if needed for security.)

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