Olympic Flame lit in Olympia, torch relay for Paris Games starts

The Olympic torch relay for the Paris Games began Tuesday at the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, starting a trek for the Olympic Flame that will last through the July 26 Opening Ceremony.

Cloudy skies prevented the traditional lighting, when an actress dressed as an ancient Greek priestess uses the sun to ignite a silver torch.

Instead, a backup flame was used that had been lit on the same spot Monday, during the final rehearsal.

Normally, the foremost of a group of priestesses in long, pleated dresses offers a prayer to the ancient Greek sun god, Apollo. She then dips the fuel-filled torch into a parabolic mirror which focuses the sun’s rays on it, and fire spurts forth.

Tokyo Olympic rowing gold medalist Stefanos Ntouskos of Greece was the first torchbearer. He handed off to retired French swimmer Laure Manaudou, a three-time medalist at the 2004 Athens Games.

The flame will spend 11 days in Greece, including visiting Athens and the Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted events at the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The flame will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024.

It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats, for the French leg of the relay from May 8 through July 26.

The French leg includes a June 8-17 portion visiting overseas territories French Guiana, Reunion, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

In France, the flame will visit more than 400 cities and towns across 64 territories. It will go by D-Day beaches, Mont Saint-Michel, the Palace of Versailles, Cannes, Roland Garros and more famous vineyards and museums. The 10,000 individual torchbearers will run about 200 meters each, plus 3,000 torchbearers participating in team relays.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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