Be true to human nature: Olympic Flame ceremonies High Priestess


Athens : As the Olympic Flame travels across the United Kingdom before reaching London for the start of the XXX Olympics July 27, it is interesting to hear what the Greek lady who lit the sacred flame in ancient Olympia May 10 had to say about the ceremony, the games and herself.

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In the leading role of High Priestess during the ritual lighting and handover ceremonies of the Olympic Flame for the 2012 London Games this May in Olympia and Athens, Ino Menegaki “prayed” to the Gods of Greek mythology that the Sacred Light give strength to athletes and spread the message of peace worldwide, reports Xinhua.

In a recent interview with Xinhua at the headquarters of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) in Athens, the Greek actress called on all citizens of the world to value the Games, the diachronic principles of the Olympic movement, and try to be true to human nature.

“The yardstick of our lives should be ‘as true as we can to ourselves’. We could give a series of interpretations on this, but allow me to say just that ‘be true to our human nature’,” she said in her own interpretation of the messages transmitted through the ceremonies ahead of each Olympics and the values of the Games.

As a protagonist in the Lighting ceremony held May 10 this year at Olympia, the birthplace of the Games 2,500 years ago, and the Handover ceremony May 17 at Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens, the venue of the first modern Olympics in 1896, Menegaki stuck to the script and the choreography.

Maybe because the talented renowned artist strongly believes herself in the value of sport and the Games in improving our personalities and lives. “I love the Games. I strongly believe in the value of sports,” she stressed, pointing to the ancient Greek philosophy that through exercise one trains body and spirit “since they are inseparable”.

As a graduate of the Greek National Theatre Drama School, with most of her professional activity having been dedicated to Greek ancient tragedy, Menegaki’s encounter with the Olympic Flame – for the first time in 1996 as a priestess – was somehow a part of a “natural process”.

She walked a long course, making the right choices, that somehow led her to the role of High Priestess, which she regards as a great honour for her and any artist, as she noted.

“Protagonist in Greek (Protagonistis) means first in the race, means you are the first to reach a place, the first to work. It is a great honour for anybody to be a protagonist,” she said.

Each High Priestess seals the ceremony with her strong personality, which is a most significant factor in the choice made by the choreographer, beyond education, she added. But still the ceremony is the result of hard team work. Menegaki considers herself as the “first among equals”.

Menegaki feels a special link with China though. For the 2008 Beijing Games she acted as Estiada, the priestess who carries the pot with the Sacred Flame inside the ancient Stadium at Olympia just before the High Priestess lights up the torch and hands it over to the first torchbearer. She became the High Priestess for the first time for the first Youth Olympic Games “Singapore 2010”.