Olympic torch: Flame arrives in UK for 2012 torch relay

By Claire Heald
BBC 2012

media captionDavid Beckham used a London 2012 torch to light a cauldron

The Olympic flame has landed in the UK ready for the London 2012 torch relay after being flown from Athens, Greece.

David Beckham used it to light a cauldron after the plane, also carrying Princess Anne and Locog chair Lord Coe, arrived at a Cornish air base.

Flight BA2012, a gold-coloured A319 named The Firefly, was greeted at RNAS Culdrose by cheering crowds.

After Friday's welcoming ceremony, the flame flies on Saturday to Land's End for the start of an 8,000 mile relay.

The Princess Royal carried the transportation lantern containing the flame from the aircraft and on to the tarmac.

It was transferred to a London 2012 torch and David Beckham lit a cauldron, to mark the flame's arrival on UK soil.

He said: "It's a very proud moment for everybody.

"Seb (Coe) and the team have done an incredible job. I'm very proud to be part of this team bringing the flame. As a nation we're going to have an amazing couple of months."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was at the Royal Naval air station to formally welcome the flame, along with 500 members of the public, armed forces and dignitaries.

He said: "Eight thousand people will pass it from hand-to-hand, a human chain that reaches the length and breadth of Britain.

"With every step, the excitement will build. Ten weeks from now, the world will watch as the flame arrives at the Olympic Stadium, bringing with it the hopes of a nation."

Chairman of Olympic organisers Locog, Lord Coe, who went to Greece for the lighting and handover of the flame, said this next stage in the build-up to the Games was a "magical moment for any host country".

He said: "It's just suddenly come home that this is the first time this has happened in this country for 64 years."

The flame will spend Friday night under guard at the air base and on Saturday morning be flown the 25 miles to Land's End by a Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter.

There, triple Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Ben Ainslie , who on Friday won a record sixth Finn world title , will be the first of 8,000 torchbearers to carry it across the country.

image captionDavid Beckham lit a 2012 torch and a cauldron from the flame at Culdrose

He said the flame's arrival in the UK, "is a fantastic moment for the country. To have the flame on home soil gives everyone a chance to feel close to the Olympics and build up to the Games themselves."

The torch visits the four nations of the UK before being taken to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford on 27 July for the opening ceremony of the Games.

It will travel through 1,019 cities, towns and villages, and drop in at UK landmarks like the Giant's Causeway and Stonehenge.

It will be carried by bearers, or taken in a convoy and will also be transported by boat, bicycle, tram and train.

image captionThe Firefly, flight BA2012, touched down just before 19:30BST

Cornish surfer Tassy Swallow , who will take the flame from Ainslie and be second to run with the torch, said: "I'm definitely Cornish at heart and excited to be carrying the flame.

"I've got quite a lot of pressure on me tomorrow, but I'm proud to represent St Ives, my sport of surfing and everybody who voted for me, I just want to make them proud."

There will be an evening celebration in Plymouth after the first day's journey through Cornwall and into Devon.

Later, the torch will visit BBC Radio 1's dance party at Paignton, Torbay .

image captionA cauldron was lit on the tarmac to mark the flame's arrival

The flame, meant to represent purity, was kindled from the rays of the sun using a parabolic mirror in a ceremony on 10 May at Olympia, the home of the ancient Olympic Games.

It was taken on a 1,800 mile-long relay around Greece before being handed over to the Princess Royal on Thursday evening at the Panathenaic stadium, Athens .

The flame travelled to the UK from Athens airport held in four lanterns, screwed into cradles on seats 1A and 1B of the plane. The spare lamps ensure there is a back up flame for the relay should the torch go out.

Olympics minister Hugh Robertson, London Mayor Boris Johnson and five people chosen from across the UK to represent their country were also on board.

A flame first burned for a modern summer Olympic Games at Amsterdam 1928, but it was not until Berlin 1936 that a full torch relay was staged.

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