Despite the rainy weather, thousands of Athens’ residents gathered at Panathenaiko Stadium on May 18 to celebrate the handing over of the Olympic flame to London.
The flame, symbolizing purity because it comes directly from the sun, has been carried across Greece, from Southern Crete to the Northern city of Alexandroupolis. Almost a week ago, actress Ino Menegaki acted as an ancient priestess and caught the sun’s rays in a parabolic mirror situated between Temple of Hera and the ancient Olympic Games stadium.
Greek commentator Alexis Costalas joked about the weather, saying that “we brought London’s weather to Athens today, to show them our hospitality.”
The Olympic ceremony included music as well. In a symbolic show, young Greek children handed the light over to older English children, while accompanied by John Lennon’s “Imagine,” sending the message of peace abroad. Many people around the world whispered “Imagine there’s no heaven, no hell below us, above us only sky,” while watching the children leave the stadium.
Greek renowned tenor Marios Frangoulis sang the Greek anthem under a rainbow in the Athenian sky and moved not only Greeks, but also everyone around the world watching the ceremony via live streaming on CNN and BBC.
Greek President Karolos Papoulias attended, while Olympic weightlifter champion Pyrros Dimas and Chinese gymnast Li Ning were two of the last torchbearers lighting the cauldron in the center of the stadium.
David Beckham and Princess Anne, as well as chief Lord Coe, Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and London Mayor Boris Johnson received the Olympic flame. The President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos, passed the flame to the Princess in order to transfer it to the British capital. On July 27, the flame will light the cauldron in Stratford’s Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games 2012.
Travelling back to the Games’ modern history, the flame was first lit at the Amsterdam 1928 summer Games, but it was not until Berlin in 1936 that a torch relay route was set from Greece to Germany.
Turning back to Panathenaic Stadium, the Greek ceremony could not escape political symbolism. Greek commentator Alexis Costalas closed the celebration shouting “Greece you can and you must!”
The same slogan was also repeated by Greek Olympic champion Nikos Kaklamanakis, who delivered his speech surrounded by kids dressed in white clothes carrying balloons. “Being Greek means never stop fighting,” continued the Greek athlete.
When the kids released the balloons, which travelled up to the air to reach every individual around the world, the Athenian sky became sunny again.
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