The Olympic Torch was lit in Rome, Thursday, by the Italian president. The torch has now begun a journey across Italy that will end in Turin on February 10 for the start of the Winter Games.
In the square in front of Rome's presidential palace, crowded with authorities and ordinary citizens, head of state Carlo Azeglio Ciampi handed the Olympic torch to Stefano Baldini, winner of the marathon at last year's summer games in Athens.
The Italian president says the flame returns to Italy after 45 years. He says it is a symbol of human civilization, of the will for progress, of the deep brotherhood of men, who are united and loyal, without distinction of race and ethnicity.
The president says the flame continues to burn in the hearts of men also in the most terrible moments. It has contributed to the resurrection of human civilization, every time it was in danger.
He says the Olympics are an ancient rite that the modern world is reliving.
The journey of the torch, will end at the Olympic stadium in Turin, the first capital of Italy, where the 20th Winter Olympic will begin.
After receiving the torch from the president, gold medallist Stefano Baldini carried it to the Trevi fountain where a relay began that will involve 10,000 torchbearers.
"It was really very beautiful and very emotional, moments which fill your sou," he said.
The torch was carried all over Rome, passing by landmarks including the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. Then it was taken to the Vatican where it received a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI.
On Saturday, the torch leaves Rome and begins its journey to Turin.