06/08/2016 12:04 PM AEST | Updated 06/08/2016 1:08 PM AEST

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima Lights Rio 2016 Olympic Flame


Best choice ever.

What an inspired choice. What an absolute moment of magic, as Marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was given the honour of lighting the Olympic flame.

Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

Lima was leading the Athens 2004 Olympic marathon at the 35 km mark, when a deranged spectator ran out and tackled him. He would have won gold. Instead he won bronze.

Your correspondent sat at the finish line in Athens, in the ancient Panathinaikos Stadium, waiting for a leader who never arrived. It was so pointless and stupid and sad.

They eventually gave Lima the Coubertin medal for sportsmanship (named after the founder of the modern Olympics). But now they've given him something greater. They've given him Olympic immortality. They've put him up alongside the likes of Muhammad Ali and Australia's Cathy Freeman as athletes chosen to light the Olympic flame.

The crowd loved it. The third biggest cheer of the night was for the refugee team. the second biggest was for the Brazilian team. But easily the biggest was for Lima. What a moment.

The torch itself was much smaller than usual in terms of the size of its flame.

"This Cauldron is intentionally small and low emission," the ceremony creators said.

Symbolically, the small flame answers the call to reduce warming caused by fossil fuel and greenhouse gases. What we know today, it is no longer possible to burn tons of gas and consider it beautiful."

That ceremony sure was beautiful, though.