President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev captured the European Games flame at a special ceremony at Ateshgah ©Baku 2015

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev today officially began the Baku 2015 Torch Relay by capturing the flame of the inaugural European Games at a special ceremony held at the Ateshgah temple.

The event marks the first day of the Relay for the Games, which take place from June 12 to 28 this year, and was also attended by First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, as well as European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Pat Hickey.

Some 150 distinguished guests were part of the ceremony and they were treated to an array of dancing and musical performances before the gates of the temple closed to allow the First Couple to light the Torch.

Spectators were able to witness the event taking place on big screens before Aliyev handed the Torch to Azerbaijan’s Olympic handball gold medallist Rafiga Shabanova, who began the Journey of the Flame.

“Our nation has truly harnessed the power of sport to effect positive change,” Aliyev said.

“Our capital city has been transformed through the many improvements in infrastructure in place for Baku 2015, ensuring a lasting legacy for the first European Games, and an innovative blueprint to pass on to the next host city.

“The Torch Relay we will launch this evening will be an inspirational journey around Azerbaijan, led by Torchbearers representing all sections of our community.

“It will showcase our country’s captivating natural beauty, while continuing to involve our entire population in the Games, in the spirit of unity and celebration through sport.”

Baku 2015 claim the Torch Relay route will visit places which are within one hour's travelling for 99 per cent of the population
Baku 2015 claim the Torch Relay route will visit places which are within one hour's travelling for 99 per cent of the population ©ITG

According to the Organising Committee, every stop on the Torch Relay route will be within one hour’s travelling of 99 per cent of the population as it travels the length and breadth of the country.

The “Journey of the Flame” route, which spans 5,500 kilometres will see the Torch transported by boat, plane, metro and bicycle.

The Torch is set to be carried by more than 1,000 Torchbearers across 60 locations and will use 132 vehicles.

“The Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect are perfectly expressed through the Torch Relay,” Hickey added.

“By passing the flame from one to another in a collaborative gesture, Torchbearers spread a message of peace, friendship and celebration through sport.

“Baku 2015 will come to life through the dedication and effort of your entire country.

“It has been an absolute pleasure working with the Azerbaijani leadership and your professionalism and focus has never failed to impress us.”

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Baku 2015 Torch Relay route to be accessible in one hour's travel for 99 per cent of the country