Olympic Priestess Maria Moscholiou has died in Athens ©Artemis Ignatiou

The longest serving Priestess of the Olympic Flame Opening Ceremony has died in Athens at the age of 87.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee described Maria Moscholiou as "one of the most emblematic Priestesses."

She lit the Flame for four successive Olympic Games from 1968 and for Winter Games in 1976 and 1980.

Greek Culture Minister Lena Mendoni said of Moscholiou's passing: "The seriousness, elegance and prestige of the presence of Maria Moscholiou were identified with the Olympic Ideal and with the lighting of the Olympic Flame. 

"As High Priestess, she created the Olympic Flame in four ceremonies, giving the essential impetus for the greatest world celebration, with the great universal message of cooperation, peace and the good fight. 

"She will be forever connected with the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games."

Moscholiou was already a distinguished performer in the Greek theatre by the time she was chosen to play the role of High Priestess in 1968 for the Games in Mexico City.

At the time the Ceremony was more low key than today, but working with veteran choreographer Maria Horss, she remained as the principal performer in the Ceremony throughout the 1970s.

Moscholiou is depicted in this Souvenir from Olympia postcard ©Hellenic Olympic Committee
Moscholiou is depicted in this Souvenir from Olympia postcard ©Hellenic Olympic Committee

 In 1976 she was present when the Flame was transmitted by electronic sensor from Athens to Ottawa ahead of the Montreal Olympic Games.

"I remember Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau saying in his speech that if the ancient Greeks could see this lightning transmission of the Flame, then they would say how it was done with the intervention of the gods," she recalled in a rare interview.

She kindled the Flame for the final time ahead of the Moscow 1980 Games.

"Creating the Olympic Light is an unbelievable feeling," she also recalled.

"Watching what happens next in the countries where the Olympic Flame is travelling is unbelievable."

She was later honoured with the City of Athens medal for her contribution to the Olympic ideal.

Artemis Ignatiou, current head choreographer of the Flame ceremonies, posted photographs of Moscholiou in Olympia on social media to mark her passing with the message "Have a nice trip to the light."