Tranquil start to torch rehearsal

Tranquil start to torch rehearsal

Olympics: Ceremony not marred by protests

Prometheus’ gift: Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou raises the Olympic torch during a dress rehearsal for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in ancient Olympia. AFPThe tranquil proceedings were a far cry from the protests seen in 2008, when human rights activists disrupted the globally televised Beijing Olympics event on the site of the ancient Olympic stadium in southwestern Greece.

Their actions triggered a chain of protests that followed the torch relay throughout its journey to China.

Organisers expect some protests at the February 12-28 Olympics in the western Canadian city of Vancouver over civil liberties and the use of what some claim is ‘native American land’.  However, the rehearsal for Thursday's ceremony went without a hitch as tourists watched peacefully while a Greek actress dressed as a High Priestess lit the torch with a concave mirror reflecting the sun's rays before handing it to a skier.

Thursday's ceremony will kick-off an eight-day torch relay of over 2,000km throughout Greece before the torch is handed over to the Canadian organisers in Athens' Panathenian stadium, which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The flame is a link with the ancient Olympics, which first took place in 776 BC, after a fire burnt throughout the sporting celebration to commemorate its theft from Zeus by Prometheus.