Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave hails London 2012 torch relay

If one man has seen and done everything an Olympic Games has to offer it's five-times gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave.

The decorated rower has successfully competed in five games and is one of the most famous names ever to pull on a GB vest.

But there is an unmistakable glint in his eye when he talks about the enthusiasm of the crowds greeting the Olympic torch on home soil.

His first glimpse of the flame since its arrival in Britain came in sun-drenched Caerphilly where he is spending the day meeting large crowds at an event hosted by children's BBC TV show Blue Peter.

"You see the flame on TV and radio and hear about the thousands of people and wonder if it is a bit of hype, but when the torch came through Caerphilly, from what I've seen today, it's very encouraging and emotional," he said.

"They were 12 to 13 deep as far as the eye could see.

Image caption Two torchbearers perform the "kiss" handover outside Caerphilly Castle

"I was within about three yards. We came around the outside of the castle and that was the first time I've seen it."

In fact the only thing the public greeted with as much enthusiasm as the torch was Sir Steve himself.

The rower is one of only four Olympians to have won a gold medal at five consecutive Olympic Games, an achievement which has led to him being called Britain's greatest ever Olympian.

He was greeted by wellwishers wherever he went with people from nine to 90 wanting to shake his hand and get an autograph.

"I live in Marlow in Buckinghamshire and they've got used to me," said Sir Steve, who was attending as an ambassador for the Wellcome Trust's efforts to create a science legacy from London 2012 in schools.

Image caption Sir Steve celebrates winning gold at the Sydney Olympics

"Going a lot to London, everyone goes around with their heads down but when you come to Wales or the north of England or Scotland, there's a little bit more time. It's really nice."

He appreciates the public's response to his past exploits but there is a part of him that still wishes he was more directly involved in a home Games.

"It's very special. Being in a very privileged position, I've competed in five Games and I've been to five other Games as a journalist and spectator but having them come to your own country is very special," he said.

"I would love to be competing in my home country.

Consolation prize

"There were a lot of British athletes who didn't retire after Beijing because they wanted to compete in their own country."

The excitement is still there although he freely admits the thought of grabbing his oars and jumping into a boat again is less than appealing.

He told the Blue Peter crowds that rowing was like a full time job but without a pay packet at the end of it.

Sir Steve has the consolation prize of carrying the flame himself for a leg on 10 July in Henley and he is well aware of what it means to him and other torch bearers.

"One of the guys I spoke to today on one of the legs was overwhelmed by the experience," he said.

"He said he was planning to walk it and take in the atmosphere but the moment got to him and he went too quickly!"

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