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Sandstorm hits Olympic flame lighting rehearsal
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Sandstorm hit Ancient Olympia, Olympic holy city, on Sunday, affecting the sun rays lighting rehearsal in Hera Temple.

High Priestess Maria Nafpliotou shifted the traditional method of sun rays lighting to kindling torch by preserved flame collected a day earlier.

Dark clouds over Olympia troubled Beijing Games' flame lighting scheme in recent days and cast a shadow on Monday's official ceremony.

Out of concern of bad weather forecast on Monday in Ancient Olympia, the Hellenic Olympic Committee on Saturday decided to change the opening of the Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame for the XXIX Summer Olympic Games of Beijing from 12:00 to 11:00 AM.

The mayor of Olympia George Aidonis confirmed the decision on Sunday. "We all expect the lighting ceremony to go on smoothly, but due to the weather forecast we prefer to advance the time, for nobody want to have the ceremony indoor," said Aidonis. "We won't rule out the possibility of lighting the flame in pre-collected kindling."

Lighting the Olympic flame through preserved kindling is not rare as the 1956 Melbourne and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games both collected the flame in this way.

In the traditional method, the Olympic flame needs to be lit from sun rays via a polished steel mirror.

Before being handed over to the Beijing Olympic Committee of Olympic Games on March 30, the sacred flame will pass through 16 prefectures, 43 municipalities, 12 municipality districts, and four communities in the hands of 605 torchbearers within Greece. En route, a total of 29 ceremonies will be held to celebrate the flame.

(Xinhua News Agency March 24, 2008)

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