Olympic Flame Lit in Greece for Beijing 2022
18th October 2021
Last modified on October 20th, 2021
It was lit on Monday in Ancient Olympia, Greece and is on its way to China where in just over 100 days the Winter Games will begin. The Games has focused attention on China’s Human Rights Record. Team GB is aiming for its highest medal tally.
The International Olympic Committee describes it as ‘a symbol of peace, unity and solidarity’.
The IOC says the Olympic flame will ‘convey the values of Olympism to all those that see it on its travels.’
The traditional ceremony, held near the Temple of Hera, celebrates the Olympic Games’ Greek heritage, connecting the modern Games to their historic origins.
After the Olympic flame was lit by the High Priestess, it began its journey with Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou, an Olympian who also assumed the role of first torchbearer for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
The flame was then passed to Chinese Olympian Li Jiajun, a winner of five medals in speed skating at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games (two silver and three bronze medals).
After the ceremony, the Olympic flame was transported to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the official handover to the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee took place before the flame departed for China.
Due to COVID-19 the ceremony in Olympia was held under strict conditions, with only a limited delegation present.
The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and several guests were in attendance.
“In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, the Olympic Games always build bridges. They never erect walls,” said Thomas Bach.
“The foundation for the ancient Olympic Games to take place in peace was a sacred truce – the ekecheiria.
“This Olympic Truce ensured a halt to hostilities, allowing athletes and spectators to travel safely to Olympia and home again.
“The ekecheiria demonstrates that already the ancient Greeks understood that for the Olympic Games to unfold their unifying power, they must stand above any political conflict.
“In this way, already 3,000 years ago, there was an inseparable link between the Olympic Games and peace.
“This peace mission, handed down to us since ancient times, requires that the Olympic Games be respected as politically neutral ground.
“Only this political neutrality ensures that the Olympic Games can stand above and beyond the political differences that existed in ancient times, as well as today.”
Other guests included the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou; the members of the IOC Executive Board; and the IOC’s Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission Chair, Juan Antonio Samaranch.
The Chinese delegation was led by IOC Vice-President, Special Representative and Vice-President of Beijing 2022 and Vice-President of the Chinese Olympic Committee Yu Zaiqing.
The ceremony was hosted by the Hellenic Olympic Committee President and IOC member Spyros Capralos. Also present was the Mayor of Olympia, Georgios Georgiopoulos.
The Games have sparked controversy with criticisms of China’s Human Rights record and supression of democracy.
On the eve of the ceremony two arrests were made at the Acropolis in Athens after protesters waved Tibetan flags and unfurled a banner reading “Free Hong Kong Revolution.”
Both protesters are members of the No Beijing 2022 protest group and chanted “No Beijing 2022” and “Free Tibet” before police moved in to confiscate their banners and detain them.
There were further protests as the flame was lit.
Team GB is hoping for its greatest medal haul at a Winter Olympics as it is aiming to become a force to be reckoned with in winter sports.
Its mission is to become a Top 5 snowsport nation by 2030.
This earlier PlanetSKI article looks in detail at the prospects:
The Games will be impacted by Covid-19.
Rules and restrictions have been drawn up and are constantly under review.
Beijing will be the first city to host both the summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games.
Around 2,900 athletes, representing approximately 85 National Olympic Committees, will compete in what will be the most gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games in history.
The Beijing Games are scheduled to take place between 4th and 20th February 2022.