Olympic torch: Michael Johnson takes flame to Stonehenge

Michael Johnson carried the torch around Stonehenge

Michael Johnson has carried the Olympic flame on a dawn visit to Stonehenge before the start of day 55 of the torch relay.

The sprint legend took his torch to the World Heritage Site as the sun rose.

He started the relay at 07:49 BST and it travelled from Salisbury through heavy rain across Dorset to the fossil haven of the Jurassic Coast.

It ended up at the Olympic sailing venues of Portland and Weymouth after a boat trip into Lyme Bay.

A total of 116 runners carried the torch on a 107-mile route.

After an early start to the day at the ancient stones - scene of a fire garden Cultural Olympiad event on Tuesday - the torch travelled back to Salisbury, where four-time Olympic gold medal winner, Johnson, started off the relay from Cathedral Green.

The 44-year-old American, who still holds the world record for the 400m, said after his stint with the flame: "Sun's out, sun's rising, clear skies today and running with the torch around Stonehenge was an incredible moment."

From Salisbury the relay travelled through Wilton then through the Wiltshire village of Barford St Martin, where primary school teacher Gemma David treated the crowds to some morris dancing at the end of her leg of the relay.

Outside Fovant the relay passed the famous chalk regimental badges cut into the hillside.

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On entering Dorset, it travelled to the hilltop town of Shaftesbury and was carried down Gold Hill - the steep cobbled street made famous in Hovis adverts of old.

Alan Surtees, the cycling advisor to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, had the tricky job of navigating the flame down the famous incline.

He told Radio BBC Solent: "That was fabulous, the atmosphere was great. There were people everywhere who wanted a sight of the flame, so many children. That was an absolutely tremendous feeling."

The flame then crossed the heart of Dorset, taking in the town of Blandford Forum and the "Thomas Hardy country" villages of Fontmell Magna and Iwerne Minster.

In Winterborne Whitechurch the flame was carried by show-jumping coach Pat Burgess. The 81-year-old has trained dozens of top equestrian competitors, including Lucinda Green and Ginny Leng.

Teacher Gemma David shows off her morris dancing

In the afternoon, the relay travelled to Dorchester and there to see it was 92-year-old Alfred Barrett, who carried the flame through Shaftesbury during the 1948 relay and brought his original torch with him.

From there the relay moved on to Bridport before it headed along the Jurassic Coast - a World Heritage Site - to Chideock, romantic Lyme Regis, Burton Bradstock, Abbotsbury - with its famed Swan hatchery, Portesham, Chickerell and Wyke Regis.

After that the route took in Lyme Bay, home of the London Olympics sailing events.

At Portland Harbour, local girl Katrina Hughes presented the flame to 1968 Olympic Games gold medal winning yachtsman Rodney Pattisson who sailed with it into a blustery bay. Katrina is herself a performance class sailor and narrowly missed selection for London 2012.

The flame passed to 20-year-old Ryan Hope to be rowed in a gig to its destination for the evening, Weymouth.

Di Ludlow, 67, carried the torch along the town's beach to the evening celebration. Di's late husband Bill was responsible for the creation of the state-of-the-art Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, which will host the 2012 events.

The evening celebration was a free but ticketed event on the beach featuring rapper Wretch 32, dance troupe Twist and Pulse as well as a number of local acts and a spectacular firework display.

A total of 8,000 people will carry the flame during its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London on 27 July.

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