Olympic Torch Lit for Paris 2024 Games in Olympia, Birthplace of Ancient Games

The torch was lit in a traditional ceremony honoring the Olympic games' roots in Ancient Olympia

<p>Milos Bicanski/Getty</p> Mary Mina (Center) holds Olympic torch

Milos Bicanski/Getty

Mary Mina (Center) holds Olympic torch

The countdown to the 2024 Olympics has officially begun.

On April 16, a group gathered in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the games, to kick off the ceremony with a traditional lighting of the Olympic torch.

Actress Mary Mina starred as the high priestess in the ceremony, which saw her ask Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, for help lighting the torch. Accompanied by several other priestesses and dancers, all dressed in traditional garbs, the Olympic torch was lit and carried to the ancient stadium, where the first recorded Olympic games took place.

Typically, the ceremony relies on the sun’s rays and a mirror to light the torch, but as NBC News reported, due to cloudy conditions, a pre-lit flame was used this time.

The torch was then handed over from the high priestess to a torchbearer, beginning the long journey which will span over 3,000 miles as the torch makes its way to Paris for the start of the 2024 Olympics on July 26.

<p>Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty </p> Stefanos Ntouskos (Left) and Mary Mina (R)

Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty

Stefanos Ntouskos (Left) and Mary Mina (R)

The tradition of lighting the torch and passing it along en route to the location of that year’s games originated in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, and is attributed to Carl Diem, who was on an organizing committee for the games. Since those games, for close to a century, the torch has been lit in a ceremony that honors the Olympics’ roots and passed across borders to make its way to the host country.

The torch will make its way to France via the country’s oldest three-masted schooner, a ship that dates back to 1896, before making landfall in Marseille on the southern coast. From there, it will cross through the country, making over 65 stops, before reaching its final destination in Seine-Saint-Denis and Paris on July 26.

Related: 2024 Paris Olympics Handing Out 300,000 Condoms After Lifting Intimacy Ban for Athletes

<p>ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty</p> Mary Mina lights the Olympic torch for the Paris 2024 Olympics Game


Mary Mina lights the Olympic torch for the Paris 2024 Olympics Game

In a speech kicking off the ceremonies, Aristides Panagiotopoulos, the mayor of ancient Olympia, reflected on the “message of peace and reconciliation of people” that the Olympics represent.

Recognizing Olympia as the birthplace of the "Olympic idea," Panagiotopoulos said the idea is one that "is not limited to sports but gives meaning and content to the ideal of the value of human beings."

"This is the biggest contribution of the Greeks. The passage from myth to historical truth and reality. People didn’t choose that place randomly. Olympia, the birthplace of the games, has a duty to remain the gatekeeper of values and the ideals of the Olympic spirit.”

Related: Bag Containing City Plans for Paris Olympics Reportedly Stolen in Train Theft

<p>VALERIE GACHE/AFP via Getty</p> Stefanos Ntouskos (Right) lights the torch held by Second French Olympic swimmer, Laure Manaudou (Left)


Stefanos Ntouskos (Right) lights the torch held by Second French Olympic swimmer, Laure Manaudou (Left)

On May 8, the torch will arrive in Marseille along with a massive armada of 1,029 boats escorting the flame into the city's Old Port, per the official Olympics website. More than 10,000 people will be torchbearers as it makes its way to the capital city, starting with gold medalist swimmer Laure Manaudou, who called it an "honor to be the first French Torchbearer."

Tony Estanguet, the president of Paris 2024 and a gold medalist himself, added in a statement: “It is with great pride and honor that we will be hosting the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad in the country of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, where we keep a very strong and special link with Olympism."

"After the first participation of women in the Games at Paris 1900 and the creation of the first Athletes' Village for Paris 1924, we are ready to write a new chapter in the great Olympic history with the third Games in Paris, France."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

The Paris Games are set to take place from July 26 through Aug. 11, with the Paralympic Games happening from Aug. 28 until Sept. 8.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.