Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing an ancient Greek High Priestess, ignites the Olympic Flame, Oct. 18. (Photo by Zheng Huansong/Xinhua)
On Oct. 18, fair weather returned to Ancient Olympia, Greece after raining, making the Archaeological Site of Olympia, which is surrounded by hills, even more splendid and spectacular.
The Olympic Flame, to be burning for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, was lit at the birthplace of the Games.
When rays of golden sunshine spilled over the time-honored stadium of Ancient Olympia at noon that day, the Olympic flag was gently raised to the Olympic Hymn, resonating up above the Temple of Hera.
In front of the Temple, Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing an ancient Greek High Priestess, prayed to Apollo, the Olympian god of the sun and light. She half squatted and lighted the torch in her hand with a concave mirror that focused on the sun’s rays. Soon after the flame was ignited, the temple erupted in yells and acclaim.
Dressed in archaic-style clothing, the High Priestess danced to ancient Greek music on the slope near the Temple. The dance was both ancient and modern and was elegantly beautiful.
“The Olympic Flame is a noble symbol of the Olympic spirit,” said Yu Zaiqing, vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Winter Games. When COVID-19attacks the world, the Flame is once again restoring faith, warmth, and hope to the people, forming a tremendous force for the world to defeat the virus, he remarked.
Entering the stadium, the High Priestess lit the torch in the hand of Greece skier Ioannis Antoniou, the first torchbearer. Then Antoniou, holding high the torch, ran along the designated route. The red and silver torch “Flying” resembled two floating ribbons spiraling up, evoking metaphors of ice and fire and symbolizing how the torch will bring “light and warmth to the world of ice and snow.”
Beside the statue of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Antoniou passed the torch to former Chinese short track speed skater Li Jiajun. Li was the silver medalist of the men’s 1,000 meters during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and the first Chinese male athlete to have won a medal at the Winter Games.
“I think it’s a sacred experience to be in a torch relay in Greece. I’ve been engaged in winter sports since 1981 and served the games after retirement. Now I’m actively preparing for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, which will be hosted in my own country, and helping with the routine training of each national team,” said Li, a four-time Olympian.
The Olympic Flame in the torch is igniting the enthusiasm and dreams for the Olympics of all 1.4 billion Chinese people. The Beijing 2022 Winter Games is scheduled to be kick off on Feb. 4 the next year, and China is expecting to share this grand event with the rest of the world.
“Beijing will write history as the first ever city to organize both editions of the Olympic Games, summer and winter,” said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.
The Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 will connect the Chinese people with the world, bringing to life China’s vision to engage 300 million people with sport on snow and ice, changing winter sport forever, the president added.
Olympics is a common heritage of human civilization, and the Olympic Flame is the highest symbol of the Olympic spirit.
On Mar. 30, 2008, China received the torch for the Beijing Olympic Games in the Panathenaic Stadium and held a spectacular Olympics. Over the past 13 years, the Olympics has achieved remarkable progress in China. This time, carrying the Olympic spirit, the Winter Games’ flame will be once again demonstrated and passed in and outside the country, sparkling with the glory of peace and friendship.
The flame for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing was handed to Beijing organizers at another ceremony on Oct. 19 at the Panathenaic Stadium.
President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos noted that the ignited flame will once again bring hope to the world. He believes that the Beijing Winter Olympics will be a triumph of human will and effort. Through the achievements of the best athletes in the world, Beijing will write a glorious page in the history of Olympics, he added.