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London 2012: Olympic flame to be handed over in Athens

Category: England

Published: 17th May 2012 01:07:01

The Olympic flame is due to be handed over to organisers of the London Games at a ceremony in Athens.

Since it was lit in Athens on 10 May the flame has been carried in a week-long relay across Greece.

After receiving the flame in the Panathenaic Stadium, a British delegation including David Beckham will fly with the torch to the UK on Friday.

It will then be carried 8,000 miles (12,875km) by 8,000 bearers in a 70-day relay ending at the Olympic Park.

The relay begins at Land's End on Saturday when triple Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie will be the first to carry the Barber Osgerby-designed torch on British soil.

After criss-crossing every region of the UK, the flame will be used to light the cauldron in Stratford's Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 27 July.

'Inspiring stories'

The British delegation at Thursday evening's handover ceremony in Athens includes London 2012 chief Lord Coe, British Olympic Association President the Princess Royal, Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

They will be joined by London 2012 ambassador Beckham and five young people chosen by Games organisers Locog and the British Council for their commitment to sport and their role in promoting the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect within their school or college.

Hailing from different national regions, the youngsters are part of London 2012's Get Set education network and school linking programmes run by the British Council.

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Lord Coe said Locog wanted to involve young people from across the UK in bringing home the Olympic flame.

"Their stories of personal achievement and contribution to sport echo the 8,000 inspiring torchbearer stories that will be shared from this weekend and over the next 10 weeks in the build-up to the start of the Games," he said.

After spending Thursday night at the British embassy in Athens, the flame will be brought to the UK by the British delegation on BA2012 on Friday evening, where there will be a welcoming ceremony at RNAS Culdrose.

Greek turbulence

The flame - symbolising purity because it comes directly from the sun - was kindled at a 10 May ceremony in Olympia by actress Ino Menegaki, playing a high priestess, who caught the sun's rays in a parabolic mirror.

That ceremony took place amid the Temple of Hera ruins, by the ancient Olympic Games stadium.

The torch was then carried 1,800 miles through Greece by 500 torchbearers on a week-long route circling the country and travelling out to the islands of Crete and Kastelorizo.

The flame was then "laid to rest" in a ceremony at the Acropolis on Wednesday.

The Panathenaic Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and the last torchbearers before Thursday's handover ceremony will be Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas and Chinese gymnast Li Ning - who lit the cauldron at the spectacular opening ceremony for Beijing 2008.

The 2008 Olympic torch relay, which travelled the globe, was dogged by pro-Tibet, democracy and anti-China protests.

In contrast, 2012's relay has taken place with the backdrop of economic turbulence in Greece, which has been left without a government and possibly on the brink of leaving the eurozone by the financial crisis.

Greece has seen huge demonstrations of social unrest in previous months, amid efforts to reach a deal with the European Union on a bail-out for its economy.

A flame was first lit at the modern Olympics at the Amsterdam 1928 summer Games, but it was not until Berlin in 1936 that a torch relay route was set out from Greece to Germany.

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BBC News, 2012. London 2012: Olympic flame to be handed over in Athens [Online] (Updated 17th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1429104/London-2012-Olympic-flame-to-be-handed-over-in-Athens [Accessed 21st Aug 2014]

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