Lit by the rays of the sun, the sacred flame began its historic 2004 journey in Olympia and, after travelling around the world (78,000 km in 35 days) and through each of the 54 prefectures in Greece (a 45 day journey) it will arrive at the Athens Olympic Stadium on August 13th to signal the start of the 2004 Games. The Torch Relay will have united all five continents, been carried by 3,600 torchbearers abroad and 7,700 in Greece and reminded people around the globe of the Olympic ideals and values of brotherhood and peace with its motto "pass the flame, unite the world."
The flame will be carried by boat, helicopter and car in this country and will require the coordination of national and local authorities, police, coast guard and armed forces as well as the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee and the Hellenic Olympic Committee.
Torch relays began as religious rituals in ancient Greece and later evolved into a team athletic event for young people. The flame at the altar in Ancient Olympia, dedicated to Hestia, goddess of the family, was ignited in antiquity by means of a concave mirror which concentrated the sun's rays onto a single spot.
The flame is lit in just the same way today - by the High Priestess - then passed to the torch of the first torchbearer. The Torch Relay was revived for the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and has heralded the start of every Summer Games since. The design of the torch has changed over the years; the Athens 2004 torch pictured here was based on an olive leaf motif and was designed by A. Varotsos.
The flame will arrive at Paros Airport at 1.30pm on Wednesday, July 14th by helicopter from Sifnos. It will be transported from there by car to a point close to Parasporos, 2km from Paroikia, where it will then be relayed by ten young Parians to Aghios Nikolaos in Paroikia harbour, arriving at 2.30pm. It will remain in Paroikia for half an hour for a short celebration with speeches by the Mayor and a representative from the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, music and dancing. The flame will then be transported by car back to the airport to leave by helicopter to Naxos at 3.35pm.