2012 London Games torch lit in Olympia

Olympic torch lit

The London 2012 Olympics torch was kindled by the sun's rays in ancient Olympia on Thursday, sparking a relay that will culminate with the lighting of the Olympic stadium's cauldron at the Games opening ceremony on July 27.

On a warm and sunny day at the site of the ancient Olympics, an actress playing the high priestess needed only a few seconds to ignite the torch with the help of a parabolic mirror.

With this ceremony we begin the final countdown to a dream that came to life seven years ago in Singapore, when London was selected to host the 2012 Games, said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.

The traditional lighting ceremony was the last of his presidency, as Rogge will step down next year.

The energy that passes from the sun to the Olympic flame will light a torch that will travel from this birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games to the country that invented modern sport and the spirit of fair play, heralding the opening of the 2012 London Games on July 27, said the Belgian surgeon, addressing Olympic, London and Greek officials inside the stadium where the ancient Games were held.

London becomes the only city to have received the Olympic flame twice -- first for the 1948 Games.

Britain's capital also hosted the 1908 Games, but the torch lighting ceremony and relay were only introduced for the first time for the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

I feel incredibly excited and I think it's a very, very big moment, London Games chief Sebastian Coe told Reuters just before the lighting ceremony kicked off.

Coe, a twice 1,500 metre Olympic gold medallist, visited Olympia in 1975 as an 18-year tourist, hardly expecting to be back in 37 years to watch the torch being lit for an Olympics hosted by the UK.

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