Olympic Winter Torch Lit

ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece, Nov 27 - The Olympic Flame torch relay of the Turin 2006 Winter Games set out on Sunday in the hands of a Greek 19-year-old pole vault champion, embarking on a three-month journey from Ancient Olympia to Athens, Rome and northern Italy.
Dressed in the white-and-orange uniform of the 2006 Winter Games, pole-vaulter Costas Filippidis became the first of 10,535 torchbearers in a relay exceeding 13,300 kilometres (8,264 miles), and expected to feature Italian designer Giorgio Armani, legendary gymnast Juri Chechi, Formula One driver Jarno Trulli and Pope Benedict XVI’s Vatican Swiss Guard.
Overcast skies on Sunday prevented Greek organisers from fully carrying out a ritual ceremony involving actresses in the garb of ancient priestesses, using a polished concave mirror to light the flame in Ancient Olympia, southwestern Greece, where the Olympics were born in 776 BC.
Instead, Filippidis lit the sledgetip-shaped torch of the February 10-26 Turin Games with fire sparked by high priestess Theodora Siarkou during Saturday’s dress rehearsal.
``Every two years, the entire world turns to Olympia to renew the miracle of a flame that moves from city to city, announcing that soon there will be 16 days of pure sports and competition,’’ said Valentino Castellani, chairman of the Turin Games organising committee (TOROC).
Minutes earlier, Siarkou and 17 other priestesses had emerged from the hills overlooking the Ancient Olympia archaeological site, and into a grove dedicated to Pierre de Coubertin – founder of the modern Olympics – with an archaic-style vessel containing the sacred flame of the Games.
The Olympic flame will symbolically cover 2,006 kilometres (1,246 miles) on Greek soil during 10 days.
It will visit eight ski centres across Greece before arriving in Athens’ all-marble Panathenaic Stadium – site of the 1896 first modern Olympics – on December 6, to be handed over to Turin organisers.