Olympic torch is lit in ancient ritual at start of marathon journey to Rio

The Olympic flame has been kindled at the birthplace of the ancient games in Greece, heralding the start of a 15-week journey to the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. The torch was lit using a concave mirror to catch the sunlight by actress Katerina Lehou, who was dressed as a pagan high priestess. She offered a mock prayer to Apollo, the ancient Greek god of light and music, before handing it to the first torchbearer, Greek world gymnastics champion Eleftherios Petrounias. The torch will cross Greece for six days, until the April 27 handover to Brazilian officials in Athens.

Rio de Janeiro will provide a spectacle to showcase the best of the human spirit. In just a few weeks the Brazilian people will enthusiastically welcome the world and amaze us with their joy of life and their passion for sport,

IOC president Thomas Bach

The torch lighting ritual, based on a ceremony in Ancient Olympia where games were held for more than 1,000 years, began 80 years ago for the Berlin Games. IOC and Rio organising committee leaders at Thursday’s flame-lighting ceremony voiced confidence Brazil would overcome its political and economic problems to stage successful games, the first in South America. The chief organiser of the Games, Carlos Nuzman said: "[The torch lighting] brings a message that can and will unite our dear Brazil, a country that is suffering much more than it deserves in its quest for a brighter future.“