Elements of light and wind clash as Olympic torch is lit

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The Olympic flame has started its journey to the UK.

An actress, dressed in floor-length pleated robes, lifted the burning torch from a parabolic mirror as if the light had been beamed by the Gods directly from the sun’s rays.

A select group of dignitaries watched as the flame almost automatically burst in to life in front of the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia.

They included a 15-strong delegation from London, led by Games organising chairman Lord Coe.

Only birdsong could be heard during the ceremony under scorching sunlight amid the ancient ruins.

A solo flautist played as the delegation returned to their seats in the Ancient Stadium to see the priestesses dance.

The flame was placed in an urn, before the performers playing a high priestess and priestesses gently carried it to the stadium where it was blown out by a gust of wind. After a puff of smoke, it was relit from the mother flame.

The first torchbearer was Spyros Gianniotis, Greece’s England-born world champion swimmer.

Gianniotis, who has already booked his place at the London Games – which will be his fourth consecutive Olympics – proudly set off along Pierre de Coubertin’s Grove.

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

London Games deputy chair Sir Keith Mills said the ceremony was “beautiful because it was so simple”.

The flame will tour Greece before being handed over next Thursday and flown to then Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose in Cornwall, the following day, for a 70-day UK tour.