Olympic torch sets off on its 70-day journey

The Olympic flame has embarked on a 70-day tour of the UK in the run-up to the London 2012 Games.

Ben Ainslie was the first torchbearer in the 8,000 mile relay, which set off from Land’s End at 07:15 BST.

Cheering crowds greeted the flame as it passed through lanes and streets.

During the day it will be borne by more than 100 people including Olympians duncan Goodhew and rower Michael Lapage who won silver at the 1948 Games.

The flame will travel through Cornwall into Devon where it ends its first day with an evening celebration on Plymouth Hoe.

TV presenter Ben Fogle and six of the Military Wives choir, who had a Christmas number one single, will also be torchbearers.

Mr Fogle will be carrying the flame in a helium-filled balloon in the Eden Project rainforest biome.

London 2012 Olympics: torch relay begins at Land's End, live updates

When it all began: Ben Ainslie at the Land’s End sign Photo: LOCOG

The Olympic flame arrived on Friday evening on board a special BA flight from Athens to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall.

The Princess Royal carried it off the plane in a lantern and footballer David Beckham then lit a cauldron from a golden London 2012 torch.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was at the Royal Naval air station to formally welcome the flame 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”.

Second torchbearer Tassy Swallow receives the Olympic flame from Ben AinslieAinslie’s torch “kissed” that of surfer Tassy Swallow to pass the flame

The flame spent the night on the base before being flown to Land’s End by Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter early on Saturday morning to start the relay.

It was carried to the world-famous signpost at mainland Great Britain’s most westerly point, where Ben Ainslie’s torch was lit shortly after 07:00 BST.

The sailor, who on Friday , said: “It’s something I’ll never forget. It was an amazing atmosphere.

“But it’s back to reality tomorrow and training for the Olympics.”

Tassy Swallow who took the flame from Ainslie and was 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, 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.”

Hip Hop artist Labrinth will headline the first evening celebration on Plymouth Hoe which starts at 19:00 BST.

The free two-hour stage show will also feature Britain’s Got Talent finalists Twist & Pulse.

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, on foot or in convoy,  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.

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

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.

Source – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news

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