The Winter Olympics flame for Sochi 2014 was lit in Greece’s Temple of Hera, in ancient Olympia on Sunday.
An actress playing the high priestess lit the torch as the sun’s rays bounced off a concave mirror at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, a ritual first established at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
It marks the start of the longest torch relay for any Winter Games so far.
Sochi, by the Black Sea, will be the first Russian city to stage a Winter Olympics when it receives the flame on October 5.
It then embarks on a 123-day voyage, traveling to outer space, the bottom of Lake Baikal, the North Pole and Europe’s highest peak in the mammoth run across the vast country, carried by a record 14,000 torch-bearers, before finishing at the opening ceremony on February 7 next year.
IOC President Thomas Bach said during the ceremony: “The Olympic message sees the global diversity of cultures, societies and life choices as a sort of enrichment. It accuses no one and it excludes no one. The Olympic torch relay will be a messenger for the Olympic values of excellent friendship and respect without any form of discrimination. And now, as our Russian friends say ‘Poekhali’…‘Let’s go!’.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin is keen to put on a show to highlight the country’s progress since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
But the event has also been overshadowed by criticism of Russia’s new anti-gay propaganda laws, which many view as repressive.