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Greece hands over Olympic Flame to Tokyo 2020 Games organizers

Published : 19 Mar 2020, 13:31

  DF-Xinhua Report

Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing the role of an ancient Greek High Priestess, lights the torch of the Olympic Flame during the flame lighting ceremony for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, March 12, 2020. File Photo Xinhua.

The Olympic Flame burning for the Tokyo 2020 Games was handed over to a small Japanese delegation on Thursday during a ceremony held at the Panathinaic Stadium in Athens.

At the marble venue of the first modern Olympics in 1896, Spyros Capralos, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), which stages the lighting and handover ceremonies for decades, passed the Flame to Naoko Imoto, an Olympian in swimming at Atlanta 1996, who is currently working for UNICEF in Greece as chief of Education.

A few moments ago Capralos, also member of the International Olympic Committee, delivered a short speech wishing best success to Tokyo, followed by a video message from the president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee Yoshiro Mori.

The HOC chief received the Flame from Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, who played the role of an ancient Greek High Priestess. Georgiou was escorted only by Artemis Ignatiou, the choreographer of the ceremony who was holding an olive branch instead of the group of dozens of dancers and male youth who traditionally perform during the ceremonies.

Thursday's ceremony started with the Olympic, Greek and Japanese national anthems and the hoisting of flags, while the Olympic Flame entered the stadium at the hands of Greek Olympic medalist in artistic gymnastics Eleftherios Petrounias who passed it to Katerina Stefanidi, the Greek Olympic medalist in pole vault, to light the cauldron inside the stadium.

The ceremony, broadcast live on Greek public broadcaster ERT, was closed to the public and accredited guests, with the exception of a few representatives of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the virus outbreak, the Greek leg of the torch relay was suspended a day after the Flame was lit at a ritual ceremony held on March 12 at ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games 25 centuries ago, in western Greece.

The relay in Japan will end at the main venue of the Games, which is scheduled to start on July 24.