London 2012: World champion swimmer to be first torchbearer
Spyros Gianniotis, a Greek swimmer born in Liverpool, will be the first to carry the London 2012 Olympic flame
Spyros Gianniotis, a Greek swimmer born in Liverpool, will be the first to carry the London 2012 Olympic flame.
Gianniotis, who won open water swimming gold at last year’s World Championship in Shanghai, will be the first of 500 torchbearers who will take the flame on its eight-day 3,000km journey from the Temple of Hera in Olympia to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896.
It will then be handed over to a London 2012 representative, who will take it on a specially chartered gold plane to commence the 70-day relay around the UK one day later.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and senior organising committee officials, including chairman Seb Coe and chief executive Paul Deighton, will be present when the flame is kindled from the rays of the sun in ancient Olympia.
The Greek leg of the relay is organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee, who claimed the economic crisis in the country would not prevent the celebrations.
However, Spiros Kapralos admitted that without the sponsorship of local authorities and private individuals it may not have taken place.
“Despite the fact that we have huge financial difficulties as a country we won’t scale down on what we are going to do on Greek soil about the torch relay,” he said.
“It’s going all around the country to remind all our fellow countrymen of the importance of the torch, the importance of the Olympic Games, that everything started from here.
“This year the torch relay, despite the extreme difficult economic conditions experienced by our country, includes several innovations.
“We believe that in an era of not only an economic crisis but rather a crisis of human and social values, the ideals of Olympism and sport are ideals that are able to transmit our hope for a better future and the strength to fight for one.”
Meanwhile, the first Irish sportsman to qualify for Olympics 2012 will carry the Olympic torch through Dublin.
Marathon runner Mark Kenneally, who qualified for the London Games last October, will be among the torchbearers chosen to represent Trinity College Dublin.
© Sportsbeat 2012