By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The countdown has finally begun. With 106 days until the start of the first Olympic Games in South America, in Rio de Janeiro, the Olympic torch was lit today, April 21st, in the Greek city of Olympia. The torch will now travel across Europe to Brazil, where it will tour the country, before being used to light the Olympic cauldron for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.
At the Temple of Hera in Olympia, actresses dressed as high priestess performed a ceremony which included a mock prayer to Apollo, the Greek god of light and music. Using a mirror the torch was lit with rays from the sun and was passed to Greek gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias who handed the flame on to Giovane Gávio, Brazil’s double Olympic-medal-winning volleyball champion.
“Rio de Janeiro with the support of all Brazilians will provide a spectacular stage to showcase the best of the human spirit,” said Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “The Brazilian people will enthusiastically welcome the world and amaze us with their joy of life and their passion for sport.”
The torch will now travel around Greece for a week before going to the UN headquarters in Geneva and the IOC Museum in Lausanne, in Switzerland. From there, on May 3rd, it will travel to Brasília, where it will begin a 95-day tour of 329 Brazilian cities.
Close to 12,000 people will carry the torch across Brazil. Many of them have been nominated by others to be torch-bearers. It is a chance to showcase the richness and diversity of Brazil and touch even the most tucked-away towns with Olympic spirit.
“The torch relay will spread the message of our shared humanity to all people of the beautiful country of Brazil, a nation that is built on the idea that its strength comes from uniting all of its cultural richness,” added Bach.