| GEO Sports|
| Flame lit in Athens for 2010 Winter Olympics|
| Updated at: 1826 PST, Thursday, October 22, 2009|
ATHENS: The flame was lit here Thursday for the 2010 Winter Olympics and carried off by the first relay runner on a journey of more than 47,000 kilometres (nearly 30,000 miles) to Vancouver.
The Games are scheduled to take place in Canada from February 12-28.
At the ancient birthplace of the Olympics here, a high priestess used a concave mirror to capture the sun's rays and help spark the flame before the temple of Hera.
Actress Maria Nafpliotou, playing the role of high priestess and supported by 20 vestals, implored the sun god Apollo to light the sacred flame.
Among the official attendance were International Olympic Committee chairman Jacques Rogge and Vancouver organising committee head John Furlong.
At Canada's request, the elaborate ceremony was the same as for the summer Olympics and the dancing vestals handed over the torch to the first relay-runner: giant slalom skiier Vassilis Dimitriadis.
The Olympic flame was to be carried 2,180 kilometres across Greece in the coming week and arrive in Victoria, British Columbia, on October 30 to embark on a 106-day, 45,000 kilometer journey through Canada.
The stainless steel and aluminium torch was to be handed over to the Canadian organising committee on October 29 at the Athens stadium that staged the first modern games in 1896.
Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier is producing 12,000 identical torches, each weighing 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds), including fuel, which is a mix of propane and isobutane.
Twelve thousand relay runners were to carry the flame before the opening ceremony in Vancouver on February 12.
Torch designer Daniel Deschenes said they were inspired by Canada's "snow-covered landscape, sculpted by the wind, with traces in the snow or ice left by skiers or skaters."
Deschenes said the torch would remain lit through "rain, sleet, snow and wind" and in temperatures from -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit) to +40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Demonstrations over human rights and Chionese repression in Tibet marred the journey of the last Olympic flame to Beijing in the summer of 2008.