Olympic torch: Flame awaits the Olympic ceremony

The BBC's Tim Muffett and Jane Hill report as the Olympic flame is transported down the Thames on the royal barge

The Olympic flame has finished its journey down the Thames on the royal barge Gloriana, on the last day of its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey round the UK.

It is now "resting" in City Hall until Friday's opening ceremony at 21:00 BST, during which it will light the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium.

Friday's relay started in Richmond's Bushy Park and went on to Hampton Court Palace where it negotiated the maze before boarding Gloriana.

It arrived at City Hall at 12:30 BST.

The torch was greeted on dry land by London Mayor Boris Johnson and London 2012 chairman Seb Coe, having docked at Tower Bridge, near City Hall.

The whole procession down the Thames involved 400 rowers on 90 boats, with the smaller craft "designed to showcase London's waterborne heritage both in sport and commerce," according to organisers.

Matthew Pinsent Matthew Pinsent carried the torch from Hampton Court to the Gloriana

Mr Johnson said about 4.5 million people had seen the torch in London, adding: "It's a life-changing thing, I haven't seen anything like it in my life. I hope we put on a good show and the whole world goes away impressed."

Alexandros Loukos, 19, from Newham, east London, was also there to meet the torch.

He carried the flame in Greece at the start of the relay, before it came to the UK on 18 May. The first torchbearer in Cornwall the following day was Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie.

Mr Loukos said: "It's been awesome, I don't think anyone was expecting the crowds to be as big as they have been."

At the other end of the relay, the identity of the person who will light the Olympic Cauldron in the stadium remains a closely guarded secret.

Day 70 began in Bushy Park, once the playground of royalty, now on the route of the London 2012 cycle road races where basketball player Rosie Hynes, from Failsworth in Lancashire was the first torchbearer.

The relay then crossed into Hampton Court Palace, an Olympic cycling venue, where torchbearers took it round the grounds and through the 18th Century maze.

Four-times Olympic rowing gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent was the final torchbearer at the palace and at about 07:30 BST the flame was carried through the Great Gate and taken on board Gloriana.

Rosie Hynes Rosie Hynes was the day's first torchbearer

Sir Matthew lit the cauldron on the boat before disembarking and said: "It's a very special summer and for the Gloriana to be part of the Jubilee and then this, is great."

The £1m royal barge, which was central to the river pageant during the Diamond Jubilee in June, was rowed by 16 crew, chosen from a squad of 28 on-board rowers on the day.

The squad was made up of former British Olympic rowing crews going back to the 1948 Games as well as future Olympians and includes Games gold medal winners James Cracknell and Jonny Searle.

The on-board bell rang for three minutes from 08:12 BST as part of the national celebration for the London 2012 Festival, when bells rang out across the country to mark the opening of the Games.

Seven young torchbearers took it in turns on Gloriana to carry a torch, lit from the cauldron, over the course of the morning.

The first six were Akosua Scantlebury, 25, who works with youth clubs and who carried the flame past Richmond Riverside, junior rower Anastasia Chitty, 18, who took it in Chiswick, Nathalie Murphy, 25, who makes fundraising films and took the flame at Putney, football coach Terry Bobie Agyekum, 20, whose turn came at Battersea Park, weightlifter Jimmy Hazard, 19, who took it past Parliament and the London Eye and Yusuf Jimacale, 21, who works with a community football programme and carried his torch from Millennium Bridge.

The final torchbearer of the morning's relay was 22-year-old basketball player Amber Charles, who played a key role in London's winning bid.

London 2012 Olympic torch relay

Torch relay graphic relay graphic

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The flotilla passed through Teddington Lock at about 08:30 BST, followed by:

  • 09:15: Richmond Riverside
  • 10:15: Dukes Meadow
  • 10:35: Putney Embankment
  • 11:05: Battersea Bridge
  • 11:15: Battersea Park
  • 11:45-12:55: South Bank to Tower Bridge

Flotilla organiser Malcolm Knight, a director of Thames Alive, concluded that when the flame arrived safely at Tower Bridge it was "mission accomplished".

"The master plan worked, which is wonderful - the torchbearers, the crews and the crowds all played their part. It's a great way to bring the flame into central London, using the highway of London."

He added he was confident the weather would hold, saying: "It doesn't rain on my parade - and it was never going to be as cold as the Jubilee pageant."

Seb Coe, chairman of Games organisers Locog, said: "Support for the torchbearers has been immense with over 13 million people lining the streets across the UK cheer them on.

"Thank you to each and every person for giving the Olympic flame such a magnificent welcome and celebrating the best of the UK with us."

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