Li Ning eager to participate in flame handover

Updated: 2012-05-18 11:31


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ATHENS - Chinese Olympic medallist Li Ning expressed his eagerness to participate as one of the last torchbearers in the Olympic Flame Handover ceremony for the 2012 London Games to be held in Athens on Thursday evening.

"I am honored and eager to live a great moment," the medallist in gymnastics in the 1984 Los Angeles Games said during a visit at the Hellenic Olympic Committee' s headquarters ahead of the ceremony that will take place at Panathinaikon Stadium, the marble venue of the first modern Olympics over a century ago.

Li Ning eager to participate in flame handover

Greek veteran weighlifter Piros Dimas (R) and Chinese gymnast Li Ning light a cauldron with the Olympic Flame inside the marble Panathenaic stadium in Athens, May 17, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

Li was chosen unanimously by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) to join Greek Olympic medallist in weightlifting Pyrros Dimas (1992-2004) as the last torchbearers inside the stadium to emphasize the continuity of the Olympics from Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 to London this year.

"The Olympic Flame is the strongest symbol of the Olympic Games and we are proud that Li Ning accepted the invitation to come to Athens and become with our Olympic legend Pyrros Dimas the last link in the Torch Relay with Greece," HOC President Spyros Kapralos said, welcoming Li.

"It is a very significant and symbolic moment in the Olympic history. It is the first time that the previous host country of the Games is recognized in such a way during the handover ceremony," Kapralos explained.

Underlining the strong ties between Greece and China as countries of great history and deep understanding of culture and symbolism, HOC' s chief added that  "the lighting of the cauldron at the Olympic Stadium in Beijing four years ago was most probably the strongest moment in the Olympic history.

"HOC expresses its respect to Li Ning for the symbolic way he carried the Olympic Flame," he said.

The sacred Light that was lit at Olympia on May 10, at the site that gave birth to the Games 2,500 years ago, travelled across Greece, spreading the values of the Olympic movement, during a Torch Relay that reached Acropolis on Wednesday evening.

Passing through central Athens, the Flame will enter the Panathinaikon Stadium on Thursday evening to be handed over to the British delegation led by Princess Anne of the United Kingdom.

The ceremony will be attended by Greek President Karolos Papoulias, amongst dozens of Greek and international officials, celebrities, such as British soccer star David Beckham, and thousands of people who will wish best success to the London Olympics.