Ancient ceremony kicks off countdown to London 2012 .

The countdown to the London 2012 Games began in earnest today with the Olympic Flame being lit in the ancient city of Olympia.

The traditional ceremony took place under baking sun and tight security in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera, the birthplace of the Ancient Games.

The ceremony started with the raising of the Olympic flag, the Union flag and the Greek flag. God Save The Queen was played as the Union Flag was raised.

Spyros Zannias, chairman of the Olympic Torch Relay Commission, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos, and London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said a few words before the lighting began.

British International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Sir Craig Reedie, Olympics minister Hugh Robertson plus Dr David Landsman, the British ambassador to the Hellenic Republic also attended.

Lord Coe with Spyros Capralos and Jacques Rogge in Olympia Credit: ITV News

During the ceremony, Lord Coe presented a framed London 2012 poster - titled For The Unknown Runner by artist Chris Ofili - to the Hellenic Olympic Committee.

Lord Coe said the flame would lift the spirits of people across Britain and the world:

We promise to protect the flame; to cherish its traditions and to stage an uplifting Torch Relay of which we can all be proud and which can inspire a generation.

As torchbearers lift the Olympic Flame in the days and months ahead, it is our hope that they will also lift the spirits and hopes of people across Britain and across world.

– LORD COE, LONDON 2012 CHAIRDressed in traditional robes, a "high priestess" lifted a blazing torch from a parabolic mirror, in front of the ancient ruins of the Temple of Hera, and lit the flame.

The flame was lit directly from the rays of the sun, through a parabolic mirror Credit: ITV News

The flame is lit in such a way to guarantee it is "pure" and lit directly from the sun, as stated by ancient rituals.

The flame will now travel around Greece for eight days before arriving in the UK on May 18. The London 2012 Olympics begin on July 27.