July 23 - The first-ever Youth Olympic Flame was lit in Olympia, Greece, today, beginning a five-nation tour around the world before arriving in Singapore, where the Games are due to open on August 14.

An actress playing the part of a High Priestess focused the sun's rays on a torch to light it, and then handed it over to a Greek athlete.

The flame was then passed on to Singapore Youth Olympic Games athletes Amanda Lim and Silas Abdul Razak, and eventually to Organising Committee chairman Ng Ser Miang.

He raised it proudly before a gathered audience of about 200, which included Singapore Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan.

Calling it a "new beginning for the Olympic Movement", International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the Youth Olympics will serve as a gateway for youth to improve their performance on the field, and in life.

"By combining sport, education and culture in global forum, the YOG will give the world's best young athletes a chance to compete, learn and share experiences with other young people," he said.

Ng said: "This place is so magical, it's where the Ancient Olympics began, where the modern Olympics were revived, and now the beginning of the YOG."

The flame will travel to Berlin, Dakar, Mexico City, Auckland and Seoul over the next week and arrive in Singapore on August 5.

This will be followed by island-wide torch relay before the opening ceremony on August 14 at the Marina Bay Floating Platform.

As the torch begins its journey, celebrations were also held Singapore.

At Merchant Loop, near Clarke Quay, 2,010 students got together in a spectacular mass formation that is shaped like a torch.

Goh Kee Nguan, the chief executive of Singapore 2010, said: "I hope that when the Flame reaches our shores, many more people in Singapore will be as excited and enthusiastic as the crowd gathered here for this human torch formation.

"I also hope that many more records would be broken when the sports competition starts.

"While not all of us can participate in the Youth Olympic Games as athletes, we can all get involved and be part of the Games in our own ways."

The event in Olympia was organised by Samsung, who are TOP Olympic sponsor.

Other activities saw performances by youth entertainers, including Singapore Idol Sezairi Sezali.

Samsung says it will also present a host of activities at city celebrations in Berlin, Dakar, Mexico City, Auckland and Seoul to welcome the Olympic Flame and to celebrate the Olympic Movement.

About 3,600 athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees will take part, and the Games will end on August 26.

It was conceived by Rogge in 2007 as a way to bring youth spending too much time on television and the internet back to sport.

Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spyros Capralos said: "Getting accustomed to the values and ideals of Olympism, the young people will be able to adopt new values, especially in an era when the fundamental principles are in crisis."

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