Olympic flame arrives in UK

Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Athens
Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Athens Credit: REUTERS/John Kolesidis

The Olympic Torch will touchdown on British soil tonight as it begins its final journey to the Olympic Stadium in London.

The flame was met in Athens by a group of London 2012 dignitaries including Lord Coe, David Beckham and the Princess Royal as well as London Mayor Boris Johnson. It will fly over on a specially chartered flight BA 2012 and will land at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall at 7.30pm.

The Torch will begin its 70-day relay across the UK on Saturday starting at Lands End. The route will take it within 10 miles of 95% of the population before arriving at the Olympic Park for the Opening Ceremony on July 27th.

See where how close you are to the Torch route here.

David Beckham (centre) and Mayor of London Boris Johnson (right) during the official handover ceremony of the Olympic Flame
David Beckham (centre) and Mayor of London Boris Johnson (right) during the official handover ceremony of the Olympic Flame Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

More than 8,000 Torch Bearers will carry the flame between 6am and 7pm everyday to 1,000 separate places over 8,000 miles. The torch bearers include some who have fought serious illness, people who have excelled in their community, as well as Dinah Gould, a sprightly 99 year old who will be 100 by the time she carries the flame.

The Torch has gone through extensive testing to ensure it is ready for the British summer weather.

Three-time Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie is the first of the torchbearers to carry the torch.

London 2012 are remaining tight-lipped about who will light the cauldron at the July 27 opening ceremony.

Olympic torch bearers for the London 2012 Olympic Games, (L-R) Abul Kasam, Dinah Gould, Dominic John MacGowan, Rosy Ryan and Aidan Kirkwood
Olympic torch bearers for the London 2012 Olympic Games, (L-R) Abul Kasam, Dinah Gould, Dominic John MacGowan, Rosy Ryan and Aidan Kirkwood Credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Chinese gymnast Li Ning, who lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Games, and Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas, were the last torchbearers in Greece.

There is huge symbolism, like so much of the planning behind the Olympic ceremonies, behind their choice to bring the flame to the handover ceremony.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee said:

The last torchbearers will be this time two in number and their presence will be symbolically linking the past Olympic Games in Beijing, with Greece, the birthplace of the institution, and the upcoming Games in London.

The London 2012 Olympic Torch
The London 2012 Olympic Torch Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The Torch, designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, has been likened to a cheese-grater but each aspect has been carefully crafted for the London 2012 Games.

The Torch has 8,000 holes, representing the 8,000 Torch Bearers and the 8,000 miles the Torch will travel.

It has three sides because this is the third time London has hosted the Games. The sides also represent the Olympic values; excellence, friendship, respect and the Olympic motto; faster, higher, stronger. As well as the themes for these Games - sport, education, culture.