Thousands of years after the first athletes competed at the ancient stadium in Greece, a high priestess swathed in white lit a flame from the sun to mark the start of a new Olympiad on Thursday.

The Olympics are as much about tradition and legacy as they are sporting events, with none so vivid as the lighting of the torch which will now wind its way from Olympia to the Games in London.

The solemn ceremony, held in the ruins of the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera, saw actors in ancient Greek costume use a mirror to harness the sun’s rays and light the Olympic torch.

It marks the start of the flame’s week-long journey to Britain, where it will begin an 8,000-mile (12,875-kilometer) route across the country before entering at the new stadium in east London.

Taking center stage in the lighting ceremony was Greek actress Ino Menegaki as the traditional high priestess. Among the dignitaries present were International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and London organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe.

The first relay runner to take the flame was Greece’s Liverpool-born open water swimming champion Spyros Gianniotis.

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