Last updated: 01:02 PM ET, Fri April 22 2016

Olympic Torch Begins Journey to Brazil

Features & Advice | Janeen Christoff | April 22, 2016

Olympic Torch Begins Journey to Brazil

PHOTO: Olympic torch travels through Greece. (photo courtesy of Rio 2016)

Despite political and economic turmoil in Brazil, the Olympics are still headed to Rio de Janeiro. The torch was lit in Olympia, Greece, and has begun its journey to the South American continent, which will host its first Olympic Games in August.

With perfect weather, the flame was lit in Olympia at the temple of Hera with a ceremony that included speeches from Arthur Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee, and Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.

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“It’s an honor to live this dream,” said Nuzman. “The dream of the Olympic Games in Rio, the first in South America. We will remember this time forever. The Brazilian Olympic Games start today with the lighting of the Olympic Flame which symbolizes hope for all of us. It brings the light of peace and the spirit of the Olympic Truce. It also brings a message that can and will unite our dear Brazil, a country that is experiencing challenging times in the search for a brighter future. Rio is ready to make history. We are extremely proud to have come so far.”

Bach commented on the unifying power of sport.

“We are gathered today on the sacred sites of Olympia, where Greek civilization celebrated the Games for the first time,” said Bach. “While the world gets ready to join together in Rio de Janeiro for the XXXI Olympic Games, we are reminded of the power of sport in uniting people. From here, the Olympic Flame will spread the Olympic values of tolerance, solidarity and peace to all Brazilians and all people around the world. Together with our friends from Brazil, we are writing history. For the first time, the Olympic Games will be staged in South America. Rio de Janeiro will provide a spectacular setting to show the best of the human spirit. In a few weeks, the Brazilian people will embrace the world with enthusiasm and surprise us with their joy for life and their passion for sport.”

Following the lighting of the flame, a dance ritual was performed and the torch was lit by Greek gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias, who began the relay, running across the Ancient Stadium to the Pierre de Coubertin monument.

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The relay will continue across Greece, with 450 torchbearers in the country, including a Syrian refugee.

The torch will arrive in Athens on April 27 and then it will be officially handed off to Rio 2016, stopping in Geneva, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, before heading to Brazil.

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