Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic flame is lit at temple of Hera in Greece

Torch ignited in ceremony at site of ancient Games, with Brazilian organisers set to receive flame in Athens handover

The official countdown to this year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics has begun with the lighting of the torch at the site of the ancient Games, which organisers hoped would shift attention away from Brazil’s political and financial turmoil.
On Thursday, Katerina Lehou, an actor playing a high priestess, lit a torch from the rays of the sun at the temple of Hera, using a parabolic mirror, to set off a domestic relay.
Brazilian organisers will receive the flame in a handover at the Panathenian stadium on 27 April in Athens, site of the first modern Olympics, and will start their relay on 3 May in the capital Brasília, ending in Rio for the opening ceremony.
Preparations for the first Games in South America, which run from 5-21 August, have been plagued by problems and a shortage of cash for organisers, as the country is experiencing its worst recession in decades. “[The torch-lighting] brings a message that can and will unite our dear Brazil, a country that is suffering much more than it deserves in its quest for a brighter future,” Rio Games chief, Carlos Nuzman, said in a speech.
Olympic flame first torch bearer, Greek gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias.
Olympic flame first torchbearer, Greek gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters


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