Olympic flame begins journey to China

ANCIENT OLYMPIA, GREECE — The sacred flame of the Beijing Olympics on Monday began its relay journey from Olympia to China in controversial fashion as protesters disrupted the lighting ceremony.

The torch relay began with Greek taekwondo athlete Alexandros Nikolaidis, who received the sacred flame from an actress representing an ancient Greek high priestess in the ancient stadium of Olympia.

A number of Chinese athletes are scheduled to run the early relay leg out of Olympia, including Chinese swimmer Luo Xuejuan, a gold medallist in the 2004 Olympics, who will be the second relay runner.

The Beijing Olympic torch relay is the longest and most ambitious ever planned, lasting 130 days and covering 137,000 kilometres (85,000 miles).

Despite an unprecedented security operation, the ritual was penetrated by three protesters who tried to disrupt the speech of China's top Olympic organiser Liu Qi.


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