Greece handed the Olympic flame for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 to the organizers during a ceremony in the historic Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Tuesday.
The ceremony, which took place 24 hours after the lighting of the flame in Ancient Olympia near the Temple of Hera, was held under strict conditions, with only a limited delegation and no spectators present. In addition, the traditional torch relay through Greece could not take place.
The Greek priestesses entered the arena and watched on as Greece’s Εvi Moraitidou, a silver medalist at the Athens Olympics in 2004 in water polo, brought the flame into the stadium.
Li Nina, Olympic silver medalist in freestyle skiing in both 2006 and 2010, from China, then continued the lap of the historic track, before handing the torch to Paraskevi Ladopoulou, a cross-country and biathlon athlete from Greece, who will compete in Beijing 2022 in cross-country, to light a cauldron.
As a symbol of peace, unity and solidarity, the Olympic flame conveys the values of Olympism to all those who see it on its travels. The flame will help build anticipation amongst Olympic fans eager to witness the world’s best winter sports stars in action, whilst also inspiring thousands of athletes who are making their final preparations for these Games.
Olympic flame conveys “message of peace and friendship”
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Spyros Capralos of the International Olympic Committee said: “This unique flame will convey a message of peace and friendship. But it will also carry with it the respect and goodwill of the Greek towards the Chinese people. Two nations that count thousands of years of history and close relations.”
He continued: “Yesterday, the Olympic flame spent the night on the Acropolis, the ultimate symbol of Greece, but also of culture and democracy worldwide. From here, it sent its powerful radiance to the 206 NOCs – members of the International Olympic Committee.”
Adding: “We deliver to you here, at the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896, the sacred Light of Olympism. To carry it to your distant yet beautiful country, to continue the remainder of its journey, sending out messages of peace, friendship, brotherhood and solidarity.”
Beijing prepares for Olympic Games, while human rights critics protest
Beijing will write history as the first city to hold both editions of the Olympic Games, winter and summer. The Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 aim to connect the Chinese people with the world, bringing to life China’s vision to engage 300 million people with sport on snow and ice.
Greek police detained on Sunday two activists who attempted to hang a banner against Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics from the scaffolding on the Acropolis.
The women, 18-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang and 22-year-old exiled Hong Kong activist Joey Siu, both American citizens, are members of the “No Beijing 2022” campaign, the New York-based organization Students for a Free Tibet said.
A security officer took the banner away, but the activists remained on the scaffolding and deployed a Tibetan flag and a smaller banner proclaiming, “Free Hong Kong Revolution.” They also chanted slogans including “Free Tibet,” “Boycott Beijing 2022” and “No freedom, no Games,” before police arrived and detained them.