Olympic Flame to be lit in ancient ritual as Britain gets fired up for 2012 Games

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The Olympic Flame will be lit today at a ceremony which signals to the world that the countdown to the London 2012 Games has begun.

The ceremony will take place in Olympia, Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games took place and it will be filled with history, ritual and symbolism.

The flame itself is seen as representing positive values and is lit using the sun’s rays is so that its purity is guaranteed.

Ritual states that this is the only way the Olympic Flame can be lit.

A team of the world’s top Olympic and sports executives, including International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos and London 2012 chairman Lord Coe, will gather at the Ancient Olympia Stadium for the lighting of the sacred flame.

In front of the ancient ruins of the Temple of Hera, an actress playing the role of a high priestess will light the flame by the rays of the sun in a parabolic mirror.

The flame is placed in an urn and taken to the ancient stadium where Spyros Gianniotis, 32, the world champion 10km swimmer, will be waiting to begin the first leg of the torch relay across Greece.

The Greek swimmer was born in Liverpool on February 19 1980 to a Greek father and a British mother.

He passes it on to 19-year-old Alex Loukos was one of the 30 East End schoolchildren who travelled to Singapore in 2005 as part of the closing presentations for London’s bid.

Mr Loukos, a keen boxer, has been training for his role as the second torchbearer by running around the streets near his East Ham home.

Meanwhile in York plans are in place for an escort of 200 cyclists from the community to accompany the torch when it arrives in the city on June 19.

York is one of two hosting authorities to plan a cycle escort and the event will be stewarded by council cycle trainers, with those involved pedalling behind the main torch convoy on Tadcaster Road before breaking off the route at Micklegate Bar.