ATHENS, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- The flame for the upcoming PyeongChang X Winter Special Olympics was lit on Thursday in Athens in a moving ritual ceremony held in the tradition of the Lighting of the Flame for the Olympic Games which were born in Greece 23 centuries ago.
Under a clear sky at Zappeion hall in the center of the Greek capital, the torch of the Flame of Hope, Faith and Love was ignited out of a concave mirror at the hands of Special Olympics athlete Iliana Simeonidou who held the role of an ancient Greek High Priestess.
Near the Panathinaikon stadium which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896, Greek organizers passed the flame to the South Korean organizers of this year's Winter World Games with best wishes for success.
Greece hosted the last Summer Special Olympics in 2011. The X Winter Special Olympics in PyeongChang take place from January 29 to February 6 with thousands of athletes competing in sports such as alpine skiing and figure skating, showcasing their special talent and strength of human spirit.
"Light encompasses the spirit of the Special Olympics, as the international movement celebrates every two years victory against the darkness of isolation for people with intellectual disabilities," said President Special Olympics Hellas, Joanna Despotopoulou, handing over the flame to the head of the organizing committee of the PyeongChang Games Na Kyung Won.
On behalf of the Greek government Deputy Minister of Culture Responsible for Sports Yannis Ioannidis and City of Athens Mayor Yorgos Kaminis, wished that the flame will spread again worldwide the message that "together we can," which is the slogan of the PyeongChang Games.
Addressing the event before the start of a torch relay across the historical center of Athens which will continue in South Korea in coming days, Special Olympics International Committee President Timothy Shriver expressed confidence that it will happen.
His mother, Eunice Kennedy-Shriver, sister of former US President John F Kennedy, was among the founding members of the Special Olympic Games in 1968.