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False start: Olympic torch blown out as it begins trek to London

By Helen William

The Olympic torch was lit in the ancient Temple of Hera yesterday — before being quickly blown out by a gust of wind.

The countdown to the London 2012 Games began in earnest as the world watched the Olympic Flame being lit in ancient Olympia before beginning its journey to the UK.

The traditional ceremony took place under baking sun and tight security in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Greece, birthplace of the ancient Games.

Dressed in robes, actress Ino Menegaki played the key role of the high priestess who lights the flame from the rays of the sun.

The flame was placed in an urn, before the high priestess and priestesses gently carried it to the stadium where it was hit by a gust of wind. Then there was a puff of smoke.

It was relit from the mother flame.

The first torchbearer was Spyros Gianniotis — Greece's England-born World champion swimmer.

The torchbearers are taking it from ancient Olympia to the Panathenic Stadium in Athens, which was used for the 1896 Games, for the handover to London on May 17.

It is then flown to the UK on 18 May for a 70-day relay, which will include a visit to Northern Ireland.

Starting at Land's End, this will see 8,000 torchbearers carrying it from May 19 to the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in east London on July 27.

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