<!-- IMAGE -->

The flame for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics has been successfully lit by the sun's rays in a ceremony in Ancient Olympia, Greece.

For the past three Winter Games: Turin, Salt Lake City and Nagano - officials had to use backup flames kindled at rehearsals.  On Thursday, a short break in the clouds allowed a Greek actress playing a High Priestess to focus the sun's rays on a silver torch using a concave mirror.

After the torch was lit, it began an eight-day relay throughout Greece.  The torch will then be handed over to Canadian officials at the restored ancient Panathenaean Stadium in Athens on October 29.

It will reach Canada on October 30 for what organizers say will be the largest ever national relay.  It will start in Victoria, British Columbia and involve 12,000 torchbearers, covering some 45,000 kilometers, before ending in Vancouver February 12.

The International Olympic Committee decided to scrap international torch relays prior to Olympics because of the protests along the route ahead of last year's Beijing Olympics.

Pro-democracy and Tibetan activists protesting China's human rights record unfurled a banner in Olympia's ancient stadium during the lighting ceremony.  They also tried to stop the torch relay in several cities around the world. 




Some information for this report was provided by  AP and Reuters.