London 2012: BMW helps fund Greek torch relay

High Priestess Maria Nafpliotou lights the torch of first torchbearer Alexandros Nikolaidi in the Ancient Stadium during the Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame at Ancient Olympia on 24 March 2008 in Olympia, Greece
Image caption The flame will be lit in Ancient Olympia, in southern Greece, on 10 May

German car maker BMW has helped ensure Greece will be able to fulfil its leg of the Olympic torch relay despite the country's financial crisis.

The torch will be carried through 40 towns on a week-long journey before being flown to the UK ahead of the Games, which begin on 27 July.

BMW is one of several international conglomerates that have agreed to pay for the 10-17 May event.

The flame will be lit in Olympia, in southern Greece, on 10 May.

The country's British-born 10-km swimming world champion Spyros Gianniotis will be the first torchbearer, and some 500 people will carry the flame on its 3,000-km (1,800-mile) tour of most of the Greek mainland and the island of Crete.

Image caption Greece's 1,800-mile relay route covers most of the mainland as well as Crete

The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) did not say how much the Greek leg of the relay - previously partly funded by the Greek government - would cost.

HOC chief Spyros Capralos told the BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens that the contribution of sponsors meant the event would not have to be scaled back due to Greece's difficult financial circumstances.

"On the contrary, the relay will not be affected adversely because it is too important an opportunity to promote Greece," said Mr Capralos.

'It's going all around the country... to remind all our fellow countrymen of the importance of the torch, the importance of the Olympic Games, that everything started from here.''

Greece has been hit by a five-year recession and is being kept afloat by rescue loans from other eurozone countries.

Last year, the country was stripped of the 2013 Mediterranean Games over budget cuts, and the event was moved to Mersin, Turkey.

After the Greek relay, the Olympic flame will be handed over to London 2012 at a ceremony in the Panathinaiko stadium, Athens before flying to Britain on 18 May.

In the UK, the torch will be carried by 8,000 people - 7,300 people who were nominated and 700 athletes and celebrities.

Games organisers aim to bring the flame within 10 miles of 95% of the population.

Its 70-day journey, which will begin at Land's End on the morning of 19 May.

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