Rio 2016: Olympic torch to leave Olympia in Greece for Brazil

Story highlights

  • 2016 Olympic torch lit in Athens
  • Gymnastic champion Eleftherios Petrounias stars as first torchbearer
  • Torch handed over to Brazil on April 27
  • Torch to enter Rio de Janeiro's world famous Maracana Stadium

(CNN)At first glance it's a ceremony which would look at home in Dorne or Mereen -- but this is no magic spell conjured by the Lord of Light in the fantasy television series Game of Thrones.

This tale belongs to another legend -- to Prometheus, the Titan, who stole fire from the mighty Zeus and passed it on as a gift to the human race.
    The adventure of Prometheus would inspire one of the most iconic fires in the world -- the Olympic flame.
    On Thursday, the torch for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro will be lit using the rays of the sun and a concave mirror in Ancient Olympia -- the birthplace of the Games.
    The ceremony is led by the High Priestess, who prays to the ancient Gods, Apollo and Zeus, while lighting the torch.
    Once lit, she takes the flame in a small ceramic bowl and leads a procession towards the Panathenaic Stadium, briefly stopping to observe the custom of cutting a branch from an olive tree -- a symbol of peace.
    When the High Priestess arrives into the stadium, she then lights the torch of the first runner to signal the start of the relay.
    According to historic documents, the first ancient Games took place in 776 BC and continued for 12 centuries.
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    But it was not until 1936 that the modern Olympics began to use the Olympic flame which had been lit amidst the ruins of Olympia.
    Eleftherios Petrounias, Greece's very own gymnastics superstar, will take the flame from the hand of the High Priestess and begin the iconic relay which will end in Rio on August 5.
    Petrounias, who won gold on the rings at the World and European Championships last year, said he was shocked to be chosen to receive the torch.
    "I was driving when I heard," he told the Games' official website. "The Bluetooth was on so I could hear in my car. And as a result of being so happy and surprised, I almost crashed my car."
     Wendy Craig-Duncan, a marine-biologist on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, took the torch underwater on its journey to Sydney in 2000.
    The torch will be handed over to the organizers of the Rio games on April 27 after a tour around Greece.
    From there on it will embark on a 95-day tour of Brazil, visiting 83 cities, 26 state capitals and 500 towns.
    The torch relay is estimated to reach 90% of the population while covering around 20,000 kilometers of the country by road and 16,000km by air.
    The relay, which will involve around 12,000 torchbearers, will end at Rio's iconic Maracana Stadium on August 5 at the Games' Opening Ceremony.
    Petrounias, will pass the flame onto Giovane Gavio, a former Brazilian volleyball player, who won gold at Barcelona in 1992 and Athens 2004.
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    Have you seen the Olympic torch? Send us your pictures to us @CNNSport on Instagram.