Just hours before the Olympic flame is lit for Rio, 60 runners from all branches of the Greek armed forces have arrived in Ancient Olympia after a marathon "truce walk" with a message of peace.

The event was organised under the aegis of the International Olympic Truce Foundation (IOTC) who hope this might become a regular event.

“We have been speaking about the truce for so many years," said Dr. Fani Palli-Petralia, the former Greek minister for Youth and Culture and now IOTC vice president.

"Now this can be the start of something special.

“It is very emotional to see this.

"Why should it be limited to the Olympic Games?

"The values of the Olympic Games are not just sporting values but they are humanitarian, respecting fair play and diversity."

Colonel Abdul Hakim Alshino, of the International Council for Military Sport (CISM), added: "We believe that the armed forces were created to establish the peace, not to destroy it.

“We are very close to the Olympic movement.

"Twenty per cent of Olympic champions are military personnel.

"We have champions everywhere."

The truce walk started at dawn in Elis, the ancient settlement which was the home town of Coroebus, the first recorded Olympic champion in 776 BC.

It was designed to recall the tradition of Ekecheiria, or the cessation of fighting which the ancient Greeks hoped to enforce during the Olympic Games.

The military runners exchanged their guns for olive branches from local schoolchildren in a gesture to promote the Olympic truce.

The ceremony had echoes of 1948 when the first Olympic torchbearer, soldier Konstantinos Dimitrellis, laid aside his military uniform before beginning his run as a gesture of peace.

In 2014, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon carried the Olympic torch alongside International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach in Sochi, but the Olympic truce has often proved difficult to enforce despite widespread support for the nations taking part in the Games.

Eighty years ago, the Spanish Civil War broke out within days of the opening of the Berlin Olympic Games and more recently in 2008, Russian and Georgian soldiers were fighting shortly after the Beijing Games began.

In Elis, local schoolchildren offered their own vivid interpretation of the Ancient Games, complete with the ceremonial prize of a crown of olives or "Cotinos".

They then took the microphone to ask the soldiers to maintain the truce.

Perhaps the most striking of all was a plea from the youngest participant, five year old Christos Iordanis from the nearby town of Pyrgos.

The mayors of Sparta, Elis and Olympia then put their signatures to a declaration supporting the Olympic truce.

The choolchildren joined local residents in Olympia to watch the final rehearsal of the torch lighting ceremony in the archaeological ruins.

The ceremony tomorrow will feature some 50 dancers and musicians.

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