ATHENS - The Olympic Flame for the 2012 London Games was welcomed with great enthusiasm in Athens, as it reached the Acropolis hill on Wednesday, finishing its long trip across Greece on the eve of the handover ceremony.
A cauldron with the Olympic Flame is seen atop the Athens Acropolis after a Torch relay ceremony May 16, 2012.
Greek world champion in high jump Dimitris Chondrokoukis lit the cauldron on the sacred hill that will host the Olympic Light overnight, sending the world the messages of the Olympic ideals.
The ignition of the cauldron in front of the Parthenon temple marked the end of the seventh day of the Torch Relay that had started from the city of Lamia, about 200 kilometres north of Athens and crossed Piraeus port, before reaching Athens.
Veteran Olympic champions, such as Niki Bacoyanni (high jump 1996 Atlanta Olympics), and other athletes, as well as members of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), were among torchbearers at the finish line of the Greek leg of the Torch Relay that started last Thursday at Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics 2,500 years ago.
On Thursday (May 17), the handover ceremony of the Sacred Flame that was lit in a touching ritual ceremony at Olympia on May 10, will take place at the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.
The ceremony will be attended by Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Princess Anne of the United Kingdom, who has participated in the Games in the past, in equestrian, said a press release of the Hellenic Olympic Committee.
Britain's Princess Anne is surrounded by security officers as she walks atop Athens' Acropolis to attend an Olympic Flame ceremony May 16, 2012.
According to Greek media, soccer star David Beckham will be standing next to Princess Anne, along five children from the UK when HOC President, Spyros Capralos, will hand her the Flame.
The last torchbearers, according to HOC, will be the Greek Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting Pyrros Dimas and the Chinese Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics Li Ning, who lit the cauldron in the Bird's Nest at the 2008 Beijing Olympics' opening ceremony.
The Olympic Flame will depart for London on Friday morning from Athens "Eleftherios Venizelos" airport, according to the press release, to start the second leg of the Torch Relay across the host country until returning to the British capital for the launch of the Olympics on July 27.
Torchbearer Dimitrios Chondrokoukis, a Greek high jump athlete, lights a cauldron with the Olympic Flame atop the Athens Acropolis, May 16, 2012.