There is still a "mutually agreeable solution" to the row over the lighting of the cauldron at the Olympic Games opening ceremony, Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt said yesterday.
The disputed identity of the person who will light the final flame has led to an unseemly and un-Olympian public disagreement between Daley Thompson and Sir Steve Redgrave, two favourites for the role. Hunt, speaking at the Olympic Park yesterday, suggested that he had an answer. "We have a mutually agreeable solution, a good solution," Hunt said. "We are still in final discussions."
While the chosen person is presumed to be a successful Olympian – with Dame Kelly Holmes also among the favourites – there is also a case for choosing someone more internationally famous. When asked whether the choice would be an Olympian or a celebrity, Hunt replied: "It will be a 'wow' moment, and bring together both of those dimensions."
Hunt was keen to point out yesterday that the decision is not in his gift, and was the result of a process between both the British Olympic Association and LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games).
Hunt insisted: "Discussions have taken place over quite some time. It's a joint decision between LOCOG and the BOA. Clearly there is the ceremonies committee which is made up of Danny Boyle and the ceremonies team which will make a recommendation and has made recommendations, and we can choose to support or not to support the recommendations. It is an act of dialogue."
Not all 542 members of Team GB will attend the opening ceremony, although BOA chairman Colin Moynihan said that this was not because of a lack of enthusiasm. "There is no athlete who goes to the Games who does not want to go to the opening ceremony," he said. "Wanting to go to the opening ceremony is at the heart of every athlete's objective but if you know you are going to start marching at 11.30 at night then you have to balance that time against your performance over the next few days."
There is a focus on results which overrides everything else. "We have been very clear the whole way through that it is about performance first," said Hunt. "We have set guidelines: if you are competing within 72 hours of the ceremony, you need to think about what the impact on performance will be. Am I worried about the number? No. I think we are going to have a good attendance, around 50 per cent of the team and at a home games, marching close to around midnight that is a pretty good outcome."
Many of the senior Team GB officials had been in Middlesbrough on Friday evening to see the men's and women's football teams play Brazil and Sweden respectively. Hunt said that he hoped the two teams continued beyond London 2012. "We would love Team GB to compete in men's and women's football going forward. Their eyes have been completely opened coming into the Olympic village and being part of a multi-sport team. We sat there at supper with these guys and they were completely taken aback by the environment, and quite humbled by the experience."
Deputy chef de mission Sir Clive Woodward agreed that Olympic competition was good for young British footballers. "The more you can expose young players to other teams and just compare them, I would love to see. I thought it was a great shame in Beijing we didn't have two teams."
Both Hunt and Moynihan paid tribute to the British armed forces, who have helped with security at the games. "If there was an opportunity, the first people that should receive a gold medal at these Games are our armed forces for stepping into the breach," said Hunt.Reuse content