The Olympic flame was lit in Ancient Olympia in the summer of 1948 under high security measures, as a civil war plagued the country. Maria Aggelakopoulou was the High Priestess and the first torchbearer Constantinos Dimitrelis, carrying the Flame, hit the road for the port of Katakolo where the war ship “Astigs” and its captain A. Gionis waited for the sacred flame to arrive. There was no question for the flame to travel to Athens.
Midshipman Manos handed over the flame to Gionis who lit up the lamps on the ship’s bridge in a symbolic move. The ship then set sail for Corfu and docked at the Lefkimi port. Sailor Vlachopoulos took the flame to the shore on a sailboat and handed it over to sailor Nikos Kantas. Thousands of people sprinkled Kantas with flowers.
British frigate “White Sand Bay” under the commander of Mr. Broders would then took the flame to its following destination, the Italian port of Bari. Carrying the flame in an ancient lanatern that the Greek National Archeological Museum had donated to the HOC, Broders said in a speech: “Great Britain will keep undimmed the flame, the Greek flame, which symbolises the passion people from all five continents and five oceans have for solidarity.” But in Italy, there was unrest.
A murder attempt against the leader of the Communist Party Palmiro Togliatti on July 14, 1948, had caused a general labour strike in the country and the Olympic flame crossed Italy under the army’s guard. British Ralph Lavers had designed the torch for the 1948 Games.