Olympia, Greece – The Olympic flame for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games was lit Sunday in Greece and will soon begin a journey that will culminate Feb. 7 with the opening ceremony in the Russian city.
According to tradition, the flame was lit by a high priestess -- portrayed by an actress -- using the sun's rays and a mirror at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia.
The flame then ignited a torch, which was first carried by 18-year-old Greek alpine skier Giannis Antoniou. Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was the first Russian to carry the flame Sunday. It will make its way through Greece for seven days before arriving at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, site of the 1896 Olympics, next weekend for the handover to Russia.
Following a flight to Moscow, the flame will make a 123-day journey around Russia with approximately 14,000 torchbearers expected to take part. The relay will cover more than 65,000 kilometers and go through all 83 regions of Russia, ending with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron on Feb. 7.
"The flame lit today by the Greek sun takes on the responsibility for a peaceful celebration here and now," said new International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, just elected earlier this month. "Thus, the Olympic torch relay will be a messenger for the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect without any form of discrimination. In the coming months, this message will reach and inspire people from all walks of life. The goal and culmination of this journey will be the Olympic Stadium in Sochi. There, the Olympic flame ill remind all the athletes, participants and spectators of our Olympic values."
The Sochi Games will run from Feb. 7-23.