The Olympic flame is now in Canadian hands.
The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, including Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, was entrusted with the flame at a ceremony at Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens on Thursday.
The final torchbearer in the Greek portion of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic torch relay was Nikki Georgiadis, a Greek-Canadian figure skater and an Olympic hopeful in ice dance.
Georgiadis brought the Olympic flame into the stadium, lit a cauldron in the centre of the stadium using a 2010 torch — itself lit from the rays of the sun in a ceremony last week in Olympia — before the Hellenic Olympic Committee handed it over to Canadian officials.
"My friends, Canadians, we're giving you the Olympic light to take it to your beautiful country," Spyros Capralos, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, said through a translator. "We place it in your hands as part of our history, as part of our culture, as part of our lives.
"We're sure that the Hellenic Olympic Committee, the athletes and Greeks are happy to tell you: 'Good luck in 2010 in Vancouver.'"
John Furlong, chief executive officer of the Vancouver Games organizing committee, received the flame and reflected upon the upcoming 106-day relay through Canada during which 12,000 individuals will carry the torch through more than 1,000 communities.
"As the flame travels across Canada's vast landscape, it will shed a light on the people, places and the achievements of our country," he said.
The flame was then contained in a miner's lantern and carried out of the stadium, where it was to be secured to a special seat aboard a Department of Defence chartered aircraft.
That plane will land in Victoria on Friday to begin the start of the torch relay across Canada — the longest of its kind in Olympic history — covering more than 45,000 kilometres of the country before ending in Vancouver for the opening ceremonies of the Games on Feb. 12.With files from The Canadian Press