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Olympic Flame Begins Journey from Ancient Olympia to the Beijing Winter Games

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The lighting of the Olympic Flame took place in Ancient Olympia, Greece on Monday. Credit: YouTube/International Olympic Committee

The Olympic flame lighting ceremony took place in ancient Olympia on Monday ahead of the Beijing Winter Games, which will run from Feb. 4-20.

At the ancient Temple of Hera, up to 30 priestesses or ‘Caryatids Kores’ performed a series of rituals, calling on the sun god Apollo to ignite the Olympic flame using the rays of the sun and a parabolic mirror. The fire, which stays lit for the entirety of the Olympic Games period, symbolizes purity and represents the values of the Olympics between nations.

Olympic Flame to be taken to Athens

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Health measures for the second pandemic flame-lighting at Ancient Olympia mean that much of the normal pageantry is being trimmed back. There were no spectators Monday, and only three runners will take part in a symbolic relay that would normally have lasted days.

The flame will be taken to Athens and handed over to Beijing organizers on Tuesday at the renovated Panathenaic stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. The Stadium, one of the main historic attractions of Athens, is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.

100th anniversary of IOC in Ancient Olympia

The 100th anniversary of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board (EB) was celebrated on Sunday. With the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, in attendance, the IOC EB assembled for a ceremony at the Coubertin Grove, the place where the heart of the IOC’s founder, Pierre de Coubertin, is buried in Ancient Olympia.

“I am sure our admired and beloved founder, Pierre de Coubertin, is with us in spirit today. I hope that seeing us from above will warm his heart, which is so close to us here,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. The creation of the IOC EB is one of Coubertin’s legacies. The first EB meeting took place on 7 November 1921.

While it is not entirely clear why the EB was founded, the minutes of the very first EB meeting say that the raison d’être of the Executive Commission, which was what it was called at the time, was to ensure the smooth operation of the IOC during periods when the IOC President would be absent. One hundred years ago, the newly created board was responsible for managing the finances and ensuring that the IOC’s rules with regard to the Olympic Games were observed and implemented.

“In fact, the core functions of the EB have endured until today and served our organisation well over the past century,” Bach explained. “The topics discussed at the very first EB meeting were not too different from what we would see on one of our agendas today.”

Like in 2021, in 1921 the EB was updated on the state of preparations for an upcoming edition of the Olympic Games – Paris 1924. President Bach added: “In another parallel to the present, Paris and Los Angeles are mentioned in the same breath with regard to the organisation of Olympic Games, showing that the connection we see today between these great Olympic hosts even goes back a century.”

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