Speculation grows over flame duty


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The Independent Online

Speculation about who will light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the London Games is growing as the day approaches.

Five-time rowing gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave is the bookies' favourite to open the much-anticipated event, followed by two-times decathlon champion Daley Thompson.

David Beckham, a key member of the bid team to bring the Games to London, was also thought likely to be given the honour but he appeared to rule himself out last week when he said he thought it should be done by an Olympian.

In an interview broadcast on ITV News, Redgrave said no one had asked him to carry out the important task on July 27 when all eyes will be on London.

He said: "I don't know who is going to be lighting the flame but I was carrying the flame in Henley a week ago today and I had a great time doing that, but I only really found out the night before exactly what I was doing, so if I am involved nobody's got in contact with me yet.

"But I am available if needed."

The British Olympic Association is reported to favour Sir Steve, who won gold at consecutive Games between Los Angeles 1984 and Sydney 2000 and was knighted the following year.

Thompson, who won gold in 1980 and 1984, the only man other than American Bob Mathias to win decathlon gold on two occasions, is reported to have the support of Olympic organising committee Locog, which has direct responsibility for delivering the Games and could prove decisive.

Bookies are offering a range of bets, including odds of 33/1 on London mayor Boris Johnson lighting the flame by Ladbrokes, and the Queen at 100/1. Their odds on it being Sir Steve are 4/7, while Thompson is 6/1 followed by double gold winner Kelly Holmes at 8/1.

William Hill said it suspended bets on Friday, when its odds were 1/3 that Sir Steve would carry out the honour, followed by Thompson at 6/4 and London 2012 chairman Lord Coe at 8/1.

During the interview, Sir Steve also spoke of the G4S debacle, saying he thought the Games would be better off with the military taking care of security anyway.

He told the programme: "I think we are in a lot better hands with our military looking after security than the people that were only going to be trained up in a few months.

"It may seem a big issue but the reality is our spectators and our athletes are going to be in a much safer situation than they were before.

The Olympic torch is in the final stages of its journey around the country.

The flame will be abseiled into the Tower of London from a helicopter as it touches down in London ready for the final days before the Games begin.

There will be 982 torchbearers to carry the flame through the capital.

Thompson will be the last to carry it, on July 24, when he lights the celebration cauldron at the evening celebration event in Haringey, north London.