Aspa Giannopoulou

Aspa Giannopoulou

Digital Diplomacy Officer

Part of Greek Blogyssey

11th May 2012 Athens, Greece

Witnessing the lighting of the Olympic flame ceremony

Yesterday, hundreds of spectators gathered at the birthplace of the Olympics in Ancient Olympia to witness the lighting of the Olympic Flame in an hour long traditional ceremony. Four of us from the media team in the Embassy were excited to have the opportunity to go to Olympia to support the UK delegation, made up of Chair of LOCOG Lord Coe, Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson MP, and British Ambassador Dr David Landsman.

From the Olympic Stadium, we were able to broadcast live content, including photos, to our fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter throughout the event. This was on top of UK and Greek TV and radio interviews for the Ambassador, notably a live broadcast to millions watching the BBC coverage.

Watching the ceremony itself was an incredible experience. We felt privileged to see this shared moment between the UK and Greece – a moment which clearly marked the significance of our strong bilateral relationship and our shared historical connections to the Games themselves. And this strong relationship even extended to our small media team, which was made up of two Greeks and two Brits, with the Greek staff feeling proud of their cultural heritage, and the UK staff showing enthusiasm ahead of what promises to be the most modern and diverse Games yet.

During the ceremony, the Flame was lit by the rays of the sun in the Temple of Hera. Only a small number of people were able to view this ritual, however we were lucky enough to watch the dress rehearsal the day before, where we gained an up-close insight of how the Flame is lit.

On the day, after the Flame was ignited, the Priestesses performed a ceremonial dance in the stadium, before the High Priestess appeared at the top of the hill with the Flame. This was a spectacular moment, and it was amazing to see the Flame be passed to the first Torchbearer, Spyros Gianniotis, a British- born Greek Olympic hopeful, who kicked off the Greek leg of the Olympic torch relay in style.

This year London becomes the first city to host the Games for the third time, but this ceremony really highlighted the deep historical roots of the Games. The first Olympic Games took place in Greece in 776BC, but it is interesting to note that the UK played a significant role in establishing the modern Games – in the UK county of Shropshire in 1890, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, was inspired to create the modern Games, which first took place in Athens in 1896. In fact, Baron de Coubertin’s heart is interred in Olympia in a monument celebrating the revival of the Games.

All in all, this was a momentous occasion, and it is exciting to think that we are now getting ever closer to London 2012.  Next week sees the Flame being handed over to the UK in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, before it begins its journey to London on 18 May.

* This blog was written by Kirstie Smith, Andra Bean, Aspa Giannopoulou and Maria Kikida

About Aspa Giannopoulou

I joined the British Embassy in June 2010 as a Digital Diplomacy Officer and ever since I have been working on digital communications. I studied Politics and Media and Communication…

I joined the British Embassy in June 2010 as a Digital Diplomacy Officer and ever since I have been working on digital communications. I studied Politics and Media and Communication in London, UK. After completing my studies I embarked in a career in communications, advertising and event management, during which I had the opportunity to discover the effectiveness of digital communications tools, such as multimedia production, social media and online marketing. In my free time I am trying to stay offline and I do enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities, such as cycling, trekking and jogging.