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Olympic Torch ceremony on Monday 24/3

(ATHENS NEWS AGENCY)     The lighting of the Olympic Flame for the 2008 Beijing Games and the start of the Olympic Torch Relay will take place on Monday with a ceremony in ancient Olympia at 11:00 a.m. Among those attending will be President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and IOC honorary president Juan Antonio Samaranch. 

    These will also be flanked by a host of IOC members, in addition to Greek and Chinese officials and athletes.

    The ‘High Priestess’ will be Maria Nafpliotou, who will lead a ceremony this year choreographed by Artemis Ignatiou, who takes over this task for the first year from Maria Hors, following the latter’s departure after 50 years of choreographing the Torch-lighting ceremonies.

    The Torch will then be given to Olympic silver medallist in Tae Kwon Do Alexandros Nikolaidis, who begins the Torch relay, and then to China’s Luo Xuejuan, an Olympic gold medallist in the 100m breastroke event.

    There will follow a seven-day Torch relay within Greece that will be completed on March 30 when the Olympic Torch arrives at the Panathenian Stadium in central Athens, the first stadium to ever host the modern version of the Olympic Games in 1896. At 3.00 pm on that day it will be handed over to the organisers of the Chinese Olympic Games in Beijing by Greek silver medallist in the women’s triple jump, Pigi Devetzi.  (Caption: ANA-MPA file photograph of previous Torch-lighting ceremonies held at ancient Olympia).