Rio Olympic flame lighting rehearsal held at Games birthplace

Ancient Olympia (Greece), April 20 (IANS) The rehearsal of the lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame, which will be burning at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, was held on Wednesday at ancient Olympia in western Greece, the birthplace of the Games.

Under clear skies, using the rays of the sun, Greek actress Katerina Lechou playing an ancient high priestess lit the torch out of a parabolic mirror in front of the ruins of the 2,500-year-old temple dedicated to Hera, a goddess from ancient Greek mythology, reports Xinhua news agency.

Accompanied by four dozen young female and male dancers dressed in light blue and green robes playing the roles of priestesses, goddesses and male youths, Lechou prayed to the Gods to bring peace to the world and help Rio host a successful Games.

Amidst the warm applause of hundreds of local schoolchildren and tourists who watched the rehearsal, the flame was then carried inside a replica of an urn to the ancient stadium which hosted the first Olympics in antiquity.

The ritual ceremony ended with the high priestess handing over to the first torchbearer the torch with the flame and a fresh olive branch cut by a young boy.

Greek gymnastics world champion Lefteris Petrounias started the rehearsal relay after another female dancer released a pigeon to spread the Olympic ideals of friendship and peace to the world.

This year, as Greece, Europe and the world are witnessing the worst refugee crisis after World War II, the Hellenic Olympic Committee took the initiative to include a Syrian refugee among the torchbearers who will carry the flame in Athens.

The official lighting ceremony will be held on April 21 launching a torch relay across Greece before the Greek organisers will pass the flame to the 2016 Olympic host in a handover ceremony at the Panathinaic Stadium in Athens on April 27.

The second leg of the relay will end in August at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

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