Let the flames begin: Beckham gets the home fires burning

 

Tom Peck
Saturday 19 May 2012 00:00
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David Beckham lights the Olympic Torch
David Beckham lights the Olympic Torch

On time and, presumably, on budget, BA Flight 2012 touched down at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall at 7.25pm last night with a precious cargo: the London Mayor Boris Johnson, Lord Coe, Princess Anne, David Beckham, and, in its own seat in its own little Davy lamp, the Olympic flame.

Hundreds of people had walked at least a mile across fields in the cold to peer through wire fences for a glimpse of the festivities as the torch touched down on British soil for the first time in, well, four years actually (the Beijing relay went through London; Konnie Huq was ambushed). They were treated to an unrestricted view of BBC's The One Show on a screen, which from that distance, was probably still bigger than their televisions at home.

The obligatory 2012 Olympics "young people" emerged first, five of them, then Princess Anne, with the Davy lamp. Then there was a pause. Then Becks. Then something of a scream. Lord Coe looked fairly dapper; Mr Johnson, not so much. One of the police's flame guardians (they sleep with it overnight) lit a torch from the Davy lamp. The torch was passed to Becks. Becks leaned over the cauldron and then there were flames. The Olympics were finally here.

This morning the torch will fly by helicopter to Land's End, where the first torch-bearer, Olympic sailing gold medallist Ben Ainslie, will be waiting for it. Long is the list of people who have looked up at the signpost there and thought "gosh, I've a long way to go". But never quite like this.

Probably the most epic journey ever undertaken in the UK will involve 8,000 people covering 5,000 miles by various means – including canoe, zipwire, ice skate and steam train. The flame will pass through the hands of a boy of 12, a 100-year-old woman and Britain's richest man on its route to the Olympic Stadium, 70 days from now.

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