Abuja – The Olympic flame for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 was lit on Thursday in Ancient Olympia, Greece during a ceremony organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC).
The lighting marks the symbolic start of the Olympic Torch Relay, which will see the flame travel for six days and 2,235 kilometres around Greece.
It will then be officially presented to the organisers of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Wednesday at the Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games Athens 1896.
With 106 days to go until the Opening Ceremony of the Games, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach took the opportunity to deliver a message of solidarity.
He expressed solidarity with the people of Brazil, which is currently experiencing political and economic difficulties.
The IOC President also spoke of the power of the Olympic flame in promoting peace and spreading the Olympic values.
“These Olympic Games will be a message of hope in troubled times — and the flame will carry this message into all corners of Brazil and, indeed, all the world.
“In these difficult days that Brazil is facing, the flame is a timeless reminder that we are all part of the same humanity.
“The flame is an ancient symbol of peace and harmony, a symbol of the power of humanity to come together despite our differences.
“This will be the greatest legacy of the Olympic Games for Brazil and for the world,’’ he said.
The IOC president said the torch relay would spread the message of our shared humanity to all people of the beautiful country of Brazil.
“It is a nation that is built on the idea that its strength comes from uniting all of its cultural richness. Brazil is unique in its diversity.
“Let the celebration of the XXXI Olympiad give reason to all the people of this vast and wonderful country to show the world the true meaning of unity in diversity.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that one of the 450 people to carry the torch in Greece will be a Syrian refugee who has claimed asylum in the country.
The refugee, who is yet to be named, will run through the Open Reception Centre for refugees in Athens, the same refugee centre Bach visited in January.
Before departing for Brazil, the torch will visit Geneva and Lausanne, the home of the IOC.
NAN reports also that the Brazilian leg of the Olympic Torch Relay will begin on May 3 in Brasilia.
Those present at Thursday’s lighting ceremony included the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Brazilian Minister of Sport Ricardo Leyser.
Also in attendance were President of the Organising Committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games Carlos Nuzman, and President of the HOC, Spyros Capralos.
Others were IOC Vice-President and Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 Nawal El Moutawakel, and IOC Vice-President Zaiqing Yu.
NAN recalls that the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will be held from Aug. 5 to Aug. 21.
Approximately 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries will compete in 28 sports which have 98 medal events.(NAN)