The Olympic flame for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 burst into life today (18 October) at an official ceremony in Olympia, Greece.
IOC President Thomas Bach was in attendance to witness the lighting of the flame at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia - the site of the ancient Olympic Games.
As was the case for the flame lighting ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics in March 2020, the event followed strict coronavirus restrictions in compliance with local health protocols; the audience was limited to representatives of the International Olympic Committee, the Greek and Chinese Olympic Committees, the president of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou and members of the media.
"The Olympic Games build bridges"
Before the lighting of the Olympic flame took place, Beijing 2022 vice-president Yu Zaiqing took to the podium to promise a "safe and splendid" Olympic Winter Games.
"Under the robust leadership of the Chinese Government, with the support of the people around the world, we can and will deliver a streamlined, safe and splendid Olympic Games to the world," Yu said.
IOC President Bach made it clear that the Olympic Games have always stood above conflict:
“In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, the Olympic Games always build bridges. They never erect walls.
“The Olympic Games cannot address all the challenges in our world. But the Olympic Games set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another. They inspire us to solve problems in friendship and solidarity. They build bridges leading to better understanding and friendship among people. This is the timeless message that this Olympic flame will send from our spiritual home here in Ancient Olympia, to Beijing, and to the world.”
A toned-down relay
Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou played the role of high priestess as she lit a torch from the rays of the sun using a parabolic mirror, with the Olympic flame eventually passing to Greek Alpine skier Ioannis Antoniou, the first torchbearer for the simplified relay.
Traditionally, the Olympic flame would be relayed across Greece by athletes from all over the world, visiting cities and archaeological sites on its journey. In 2021, the relay has been significantly shortened, with only three athletes - Antoniou, Chinese short track speed skater Li Jiajun, and Greek cross-country skier Paraskevi Lapdopoulou - completing a small part of the flame's journey. It will be the first time that the flame has not been carried across Greece since 1984.
After receiving the flame from high priestess Georgiou, Antoniou carried the flame to the monument to Pierre de Coubertin, which holds the heart of the father of the modern Olympics. Antoniou then passed the flame to Li, who carried it to a bridge across the River Kladeos on the outskirts of the village of Olympia. The Flame was then transferred to the Acropolis of Athens, where it will stay overnight in preparation for the handover ceremony, scheduled to take place at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens at 11:50am (local time) on 19 October. At that time, the flame will be passed to the delegation from Beijing 2022.
Beijing 2022 Torch Relay safety lantern and torchbearer uniform unveiled
As the Olympic flame was lit for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the safety lantern and the torchbearer uniform for Beijing 2022 were unveiled to the public in Ancient Olympia.
In a statement, the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (BOCOG) said the safety lantern’s design concept comes from the “first lantern of China”, the “Chang Xin palace lantern” from the Han Dynasty, which was made 2,000 years ago. The lantern was unearthed in Hebei province, one of the competition zones for the Olympic Winter Games.
Chang Xin, which means eternal belief, represents humankind’s eternal pursuit of light and hope. The flowing red ribbon covers the top of the lantern, echoing the “Fei Yang” (Flying) torch design, symbolising the passion and energy of the Olympic Games.
The torchbearer uniform includes clothing, a knitted hat, headband, gloves and athletic shoes. The design elements include the Olympic rings, the Games signature - Beijing 2022 - and the emblem of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Torch Relay. The colours of the uniform (red, white and yellow) reflect the Olympic Torch Relay characteristics of passion, enthusiasm and celebration. The sleeves, side stripes, and the shoe soles are linked by one red line, mirroring the dynamic red ribbon of the torch and demonstrating everyone’s high spirit during the Olympic Torch Relay.
Where to watch the handover ceremony
The official handover ceremony to the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee will take place on 19 October before the flame departs for People's Republic of China, and will be streamed live on Olympics.com
Closer to the Games, a traditional Olympic Torch Relay will be held. More information will be announced by the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee after the arrival ceremony on 20 October.