Lit in Greece, the Olympic Flame arrived in the UK on May 18, 2012 before setting out the next day on a 70-day Olympic Torch Relay, bringing the excitement of the Games to within ten-miles of everyone in the UK.
The Olympic Flame stands for peace, unity and friendship. It will be carried by 8,000 truly inspirational Torchbearers from each of the countries and localities it visits during the Relay.
The Olympic Flame, Torch and Relay draw on a history going back to the ancient Olympic Games in Greece. The Torch and Relay were important elements of the cultural festivals surrounding the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece.
During the Games, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess, Hera. In addition, heralds were summoned to travel throughout Greece to announce the Games, declaring a sacred truce for the duration.
A very precise ritual for the lighting of the Flame is followed at every Games. It is lit from the sun's rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, in a traditional ceremony among the ruins of the home of the ancient Games.
After a short relay around Greece, the Flame is handed over to the new Host City at another ceremony in the Panathenaiko stadium in Athens. The Flame is then delivered to the Host Country, where it is transferred from one Torchbearer to another, spreading the message of peace, unity and friendship.
It ends its journey as the last Torchbearer lights the cauldron at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, marking the official start of the Games. The Flame is extinguished on the final day of the Games, at the Closing Ceremony.
The Torch will arrive in Belfast from the Isle of Man late on the evening of Saturday, June 2. It will visit Portrush on June 3, Derry~Londonderry and June 4 and Newry on June 5, before visiting Dublin.
The torch returns to Belfast on Wednesday June 6, and will then take two hours travelling around the city. The relay will finish at the City Hall, where a large outdoor event – being broadcast live on BBC One – will take place from 6pm - 8pm and set the scene for the Torch’s arrival.
The event will feature an array of entertainment over the two hours – including performances from General Fiasco, Sontas and the City Of Belfast School of Music Junior Choir.
Free tickets for the event will be available from the Belfast Welcome Centre on a first come first served basis, with a limit of four tickets per person. Terms and conditions will apply. Full details are available from www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events or the Belfast Welcome Centre on 028 9024 6609.
Watch the Relay live and find out more at the offical London 2012 website.