9th February 2012 Athens, Greece

Championing London 2012 in Athens

Minister for Europe, David Lidington, visited Athens this week for official discussions. As everybody knows Greece has been going through very difficult times. Britain wants to see the Eurozone strong and successful, and so it is important that we work closely to understand the developments in Greece and support Greece’s efforts wherever we can. However, it was also good that the Minister was able to take time to make an important link with something which rightly generates great pride in Greeks – the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games are steeped in history and symbolism, based on their origins in Ancient Greece. This week the London 2012 organisers announced details of the Olympic Torch Relay in the UK. Of course, the Torch will start its journey here in Greece, at Ancient Olympia, where the Olympic Flame will be lit on 10 May, in a traditional ceremony which uses sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, among the atmospheric ruins of the home of the ancient Games. Fortunately, this being Greece, you are almost certainly guaranteed sun!

Once lit, Greeks will then take the Olympic Torch on their own relay across the mainland and the many beautiful islands familiar to UK visitors.  Though a Greek relay, there will be a UK flavour to this too, with both the second Torchbearer on the first day and penultimate Torchbearer on the last day chosen by London 2012. The names have not yet been released and will  be a surprise to us too, but we’re told they will be “inspirational people” from the UK.

Symbolically the Olympic Flame will then arrive at the site of the first Modern Olympics in 1896,  the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens on 17 May.  During an evening ceremony the Olympic Flame will the be handed for safe-keeping to a representative of London 2012, ready for its onward journey to the UK. I’m told that the flame has a special ceremonial lantern to travel in, and even has its own seat on the BA2012 flight that will carry it to an excited UK public.

The Minister for Europe was able to visit the impressive marble stadium in Athens and hear firsthand about the Handover ceremony from the Deputy Mayor of Athens, Eva Kontostathakou, and Denise Panagopoulou, of the Hellenic Olympic Committee. His hosts even took him to the space on the museum wall, which is ready and waiting for one of the London 2012 torches. The Minister’s visit took him through the tunnel where the first Modern Olympians (and ancient athletes) no doubt nervously gathered before competing on the stadium track. Impressively the Stadium still allows early morning joggers to run around the track, and I’m hoping to persuade a British team out on the track to limber up for Sport Relief’s ‘Run a Mile’ in March. The 70,000 stadium will be an impressive and emotive venue for the Torch Handover and we’re hoping that there will be may British people and those with an strong tie to the UK amongst the spectators for the ceremony.

Check out the photos of the Minister’s visit on UK in Greece Flickr Album.

7 comments on “Championing London 2012 in Athens

  1. Greece once again will showcase the Olympic Torch relay.Greece with great hospitality and traditional organization will carry the hopes of the World for peace and friendship.
    I am very impressed that the Hellenic Olympic Committee will take this major project to perfection despite the financially hard times.It is about pride and HONOR.
    Antonis Loudaros
    Olympic torch bearer

  2. Having visited Athens and Olympia on a number of occasions, it has long been an ambition to witness an Olympic flame lighting and handover ceremony. London 2012 is of course the ideal opportunity.

    There will be a party of six from the UK in both Olympia and Athens for the ceremonies, and attnding the World Olympic Collectors Fair to be held in the Zappeion from 17th – 19th May.

    The Hellenic Olympic Committee website will be the most reliable source for updated information.

    Bob Farley
    Society of Olympic Collectors

    1. Hello Robert. It will be good to have you here. And thanks for the info about the Collectors Fair!

  3. Very informative many thanks for featuring it on this site. I am a UK ex pat living in Greece and have been trying for months to find out when this ceremony is. I wrote to the UK Olympic committee who said it was nothing to do with them and told me to write to Olympic Committee in Switzerland who did not reply. Here in Greece..I don’t live far from Olympia, they acted as if they never heard of it!! Athens tourist board online is still featuring 2004………….

    All I need to know now is where can I get tickets from for either Olympia, Athens or both so that I can support.

    1. Hello Mary. Glad you liked it! We’re still waiting for the final details of the arrangements, however I understand that there will be access for members of the public at both Ancient Olympia (10 May) and to the Athens ceremony (17 May). I attended the Beijing handover in Athens in 2008 and members of the public were given free access on the day. I’m meeting the Mayor of Ancient Olympia’s office soon and will hopefully have more info on their arrangements shortly. I shall come back to you and let you know. Will be great to have your support!

    2. Hello Mary
      My HOC contacts tell me that members of the public are welcome to attend the Lighting Ceremony in Olympia on 10 May. You should go to the archaeological site (Ancient Stadium) at around 10am. The public is also invited to the Olympic Flame Handover at the Kalimarmaron Stadium in Athens on 17 May. I suggest you get there at around 1800.

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