By Nick Butler

The Flame has been lit to begin the Nanjing 2014 Virtual Torch Relay ©NYOGOCApril 30 - A Flame Lighting Ceremony steeped in tradition took place today at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens to mark the start of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Virtual Torch Relay.

The Ceremony differed from the format used before Summer and Winter Olympics, where the Flame is lit in the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia before being handed over to the host nation in a second Ceremony in the Panathenaic Stadium, home of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, following a short relay around Greece.

But, despite the different location, the style and ambiance was similar as the Flame was lit by the sun's rays reflected in a parabolic mirror by a priestess from the Temple of Hera.

The priestess then passed the Torch to the first of four young runners from Greece and China, who performed a mini relay within the Stadium before igniting the virtual Torch.

Among those attending were representatives from Greece, Nanjing and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), including Chinese Olympic Committee chairman Liu Peng, Nanjing Mayor Miao Ruilin, Nanjing 2014 IOC Coordination Commission chairman Alexander Popov and President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos.

Also present was IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge, who pioneered the Youth Olympic concept first seen in Singapore in 2010, during his 12 years as IOC President.

"Today's Lighting Ceremony marks the symbolic start of these Games," said Rogge during the Ceremony.

"We hope it will inspire people to get active and to embrace the Olympic values.

"Let the Youth Olympic Flame now carry the passion and dreams of the young people to every corner of the globe before settling in Nanjing in August."

Greek fencer Marios Giakoumatos, who has already qualified for Nanjing 2014 aged 17, carries the Flame within the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens ©NYOGOCGreek fencer Marios Giakoumatos, who has already qualified for Nanjing 2014 aged 17, carries the Flame within the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens ©NYOGOC

A concept which was also seen ahead of the Asian Youth Games in Nanjing last August, the Virtual Torch Relay gives fans around the world the chance to get involved in the Games via an interactive app.

The app has may features to engage and inspire fans to get active and learn more about the Olympic values, as well as various games and activities, with the virtual journey taking in 258 online locations including the 204 nations and regions that will participate at Nanjing 2014. 

It is hoped this new way of passing on the Youth Olympic Flame will spread the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect to young people around the world regardless of language, time zone or geographical location.

After this 98-day digital journey, the Youth Olympic Flame will arrive in Nanjing for a short physical Torch Relay before marking the start of the Games on August 16.

The Games will consist of 3,600 athletes participating in 28 sports, and is due to continue until August 28.

More information on how to participate in the Virtual Torch Relay can be found here

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