Olympic torch relay begins in Britain | News | DW | 19.05.2012
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Olympic torch relay begins in Britain

The London 2012 torch relay has officially begun. Crowds have gathered to get a glimpse of the famous flame.

British sailor Ben Ainslie launched the torch relay for the 2012 London Olympics on Saturday from the picturesque port town of Land's End.

Yachtsman Ainslie, who has won gold medals in sailing at the last three Olympic Games, strolled through cheering crowds, allowing some of the 3,500 spectators to touch the golden torch.

"It was pretty emotional, so much effort has gone into getting the Olympics in London and it means so much to everyone involved," Ainslie said.

He then passed the flame on to 18-year-old Anastassia Swallow, a surfer who is hoping her sport will one day become an Olympic discipline.

The flame arrived in Britain from Greece on Friday and was flown to the small town on England's southwesternly most tip on Saturday by a Royal Navy helicopter before it was used to light the torch.

Countdown to the games

The torch journey will culminate in 70 days with the lighting of the cauldron to start the games on July 27. Between now and then, 8,000 people will carry the torch as it makes its way around the United Kingdom and heads to the Olympic Stadium in east London for the opening ceremony.

London 2012 organizers hope the torch relay will get Brits, as well as the world, excited for the upcoming summer games.

The flame was lit in Ancient Olympia in Greece on May 10 and was handed over to the British delegation in Athens on Thursday. No overseas legs of the relay have been planned for this year.

The oldest runner will be a 100-year-old woman and Olympians past and present, as well as soldiers injured in Afghanistan, are set to take part in the torch relay.

The torch's journey "will connect millions of people around the UK to the Games in a unique way and allows us to celebrate the best of the UK and its people," chief organizer of the London Olympics, Sebastian Coe, said.

tm/ccp (AFP, AP)