Olympic Flame lit in birthplace of ancient Games; Greek leg of relay for
Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games starts; Symbol of peace ignites the
Olympic Spirit

    
                              Apollo God of Sun
                            and the idea of light
                  send your rays and light the sacred torch
                     for the hospitable city of Vancouver
                           and you Zeus give peace
                         to all peoples on earth and
                             wreath the winners
                             of the Sacred race

                                 - Prayer by high priestess Maria Nafpliotou
                                 to god Apollo in the Temple of Hera on
                                 October 22
    

OLYMPIA, Greece, Oct. 22 /CNW/ - With this prayer of peace, the presentation of an olive branch and the release of a snow white dove, the journey of the Olympic Flame towards the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games was blessed today in a historic ceremony steeped in Greek tradition.

Amid ancient Greek ruins in Olympia, the ancestral home of the Olympic Games, the ceremony started with high priestess Maria Nafpliotou harnessing the power of the sun by holding a torch in a parabolic mirror and ended with Greek skier Vassilis Dimitriadis - the first torchbearer - running out of the stadium to start the Greek leg of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

The flame Dimitriadis carried today past the nearby Pierre De Coubertin Grove will be the same one that lights the Olympic Cauldron in 113 days time to officially open the 2010 Winter Games on February 12, 2010.

On Friday, October 30, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay will start its 45,000-kilometre journey across Canada in Victoria, British Columbia. It is the longest domestic relay in Olympic history and is presented by Coca-Cola and RBC and supported by the Government of Canada.

"It is always a special moment to be in Olympia, the birthplace of Olympism," said Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). "The Olympic Torch and Flame are symbols of the values and ideals that lie at the heart of the Olympic Games. It's a message of friendship and respect to millions of people of different nationalities, races and creeds.

"The longest national Olympic Torch Relay in history will create a spirit of global community and world citizenship," he continued. "It will inspire new hopes, new dreams, particularly among the younger generation, to take part in the Games. It will invite Canadians and visitors from around the world to gather and celebrate the Games with glowing hearts."

During the Greek leg of the relay, an estimated 600 torchbearers selected by the Hellenic Olympic Committee will carry the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch, designed and manufactured by Bombardier, and wear the torchbearer uniform designed and manufactured by the Hudson's Bay Company.

"We are pleased to share our culture and tradition with Canada and the world," said Spyros Zannias, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee's Torch Relay Commission. "We will carry the Olympic Flame 2,180 kilometres and hold 36 ceremonies in Greece to share with our country's residents before we entrust the safe keeping of the Olympic Flame to Canada."

On October 29, 2009 in Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, Greece the HOC will officially handover the flame to the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). From Athens it will travel by a Department of National Defence chartered aircraft to Victoria, BC, on Canada's West Coast.

"Today marks the start of the 2010 Winter Games and sharing the story of peace, friendship and camaraderie through sport around the globe," said John Furlong, VANOC's Chief Executive Officer. "The team has worked tirelessly towards this moment for many years. Lit from a bright day's sun, fuelled by passion and dreams, the relay will end with the dark of night at the Opening Ceremonies. We're ready to welcome the world."

"From coast to coast to coast, the people of Canada are getting ready to welcome the historic Olympic Flame to each province and territory in our vast, diverse country," said Gary Lunn, Minister of State (Sport) for the Government of Canada. "The 106-day moving celebration will connect the country to the Games and give Canadians an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate and commemorate our great nation."

Gordon Campbell, premier of British Columbia, added: "British Columbians are proud to be welcoming the Olympic Flame when it touches down on Canadian soil in just over a week to start the Olympic Torch Relay. Our provincial capital of Victoria will be in the international spotlight as the starting point for this historic voyage, which will carry the spirit of the Games to every corner of Canada and to 268 communities across B.C."

Visiting more than 1,030 communities and places of interest in Canada, the Olympic Flame will be carried by 12,000 torchbearers to the Host City of Vancouver.

"The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay will end in Vancouver with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron on February 12, 2010, where the world will gather for a tremendous celebration of sport and culture - but that all begins here today in Olympia Greece," said Gregor Robertson, mayor of the Host City for the Games. "I know the Olympic Flame will make a tremendous journey across Canada, and the residents of Vancouver are ready and excited to welcome it to our community to conclude the relay when the final torchbearer lights the Olympic Cauldron."

For more information on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, including an interactive relay route map, pictures, video, and stories from the road, visit www.vancouver2010.com/torchrelay. Follow the Olympic Flame on VANOC's official torch Twitter site: www.twitter.com/followthetorch.

Note to Photo Editors: Photos from the Lighting Ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Olympia, Greece will be posted to the media centre at www.vancouver2010.com.

About VANOC

VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010. Visit www.vancouver2010.com.

About Coca-Cola and the Olympic Movement

The Coca-Cola Company has been associated with the Olympic Games since 1928 and is the longest continuous corporate supporter of the Olympic Movement. Through the Olympic Games, Coca-Cola encourages people to create their own path of "positivity" in everyday life by believing that anything is possible. The Company's sponsorship supports National Olympic Committees in more than 200 countries to help athletes train and compete. The Coca-Cola Company is the exclusive non-alcoholic beverage provider to the Olympic Games through 2020. For more information about Coca-Cola Canada, please visit our website at www.cocacola.ca or our parent company's website at www.thecoca-colacompany.com.

About RBC

As part of our commitment to helping create a better Canada, RBC sponsors amateur sport, from grassroots programs in local communities to national sport associations that support the development of amateur athletes who compete at home and abroad. Canada's longest-standing supporter of the Canadian Olympic Team since 1947, RBC continues its sponsorship through the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and is proud to bring the Olympic Spirit to communities across Canada as co-presenting sponsor of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. RBC is also a premier sponsor of Hockey Canada, the Canadian Snowboard Team, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team, Athletics Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Visit www.rbc.com/sponsorship.

About the Government of Canada

The Government of Canada is proud to make 2010 a celebration for all Canadians. Through strategic investments in programming and funding, the spirit and excitement will be felt far and wide and leave lasting legacies for future generations. Through the Olympic Torch Relay, the Government of Canada is supporting citizen and community participation, as well as the inclusion of Aboriginal, ethnocultural and official-language communities. For more information on the Government of Canada's contribution to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, visit www.Canada2010.gc.ca.

SOURCE VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

For further information: For further information: Media Contacts: VANOC Contact in Greece, Chris Shauf, VANOC Torch Relay Communications, (778) 835-7894, chris_shauf@vancouver2010.com; VANOC Contact in Vancouver, Jenee Elborne, VANOC Torch Relay Communications, (778) 227-1215, jenee_elborne@vancouver2010.com

Organization Profile

VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

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