Flame lit ahead of Sochi Olympics

A torch-lighting ceremony has been held in Greece to mark the official launch of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

At the ceremony, Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach urged Russia to uphold the values of the Games.

He said the torch was a symbol of friendship, excellence and respect “without any form of discrimination”.

Russia’s preparations for the February 2014 Games have recently been overshadowed by a controversial new legislation seen as anti-gay.

Ancient site

Women dressed in ancient Greek-style robes performed an elaborate dance before igniting the Olympic flame in the ruins of the Temple of Hera, in Olympus, using reflected sun rays.

The flames were then used to light the first Olympic torch, which was carried by Russian ice hockey player Aleksandr Ovechkin.

The torch is expected to arrive in complete a 65,000-km journey (40,000-mile) before arriving for the opening ceremony of the Games in 123 days’ time.

It is due to arrive in Moscow on 6 October before being carried around the Russia by up to 14,000 volunteers.

Mr Ovechkin, wearing a white and red ski hat, held the torch aloft and carried an olive branch as he ran the first leg of the relay from Olympus.

Before the ceremony, Mr Ovechkin declined to answer questions about Russia’s new legislation which outlaws “homosexual propaganda among minors”.

“I am just a hockey player. This is something for the politicians,” he told Reuters.