— The flame for the London Olympics arrived on British soil Friday on board a special golden-liveried British Airways flight from Athens.
The Airbus plane ‘Firefly’, Flight 2012, landed at the Culdrose naval air station with Britain’s Princess Anne, Games chairman Seb Coe and former England soccer captain David Beckham among the delegation.
The flame will start a 70-day torch relay around Britain Saturday, with triple Olympic gold medalist sailor Ben Ainslie carrying it on the first leg from Land’s End on the south-west tip of England.
The Games start on July 27.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg welcomed the Olympic torch on behalf of the British government.
“It is a fantastic moment for us, particularly at a time when there is so much anxiety and concern about the economy and other things, to be uplifted by this whole experience and to be able to showcase ourselves to the world as an open-hearted, generous, dynamic, positive country,” he told the BBC. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the country as a whole.”
The arrival of the flame, with Princess Anne carrying it in a special lantern down the steps from the plane, was covered live on Britain’s main BBC station.
“It’s only when the torch comes into your possession that you realise,” the Princess said as she handed the lantern to one of the special security team who will guard it.
Beckham then lit the Olympic torch with the flame and ignited a cauldron ready for Saturday’s relay start.
On Thursday, the flame was handed over at a damp ceremony in the Athens marble stadium that hosted the first modern Games in 1896.
The flame, lit from the sun’s rays at the home of the ancient Games in Olympia a week ago, was presented under grey and rainy skies to former Olympian Princess Anne by the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos.
The torch will visit all four nations in the United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — and also make a trip to the Irish Republic for a day in Dublin.
On its travels, it will be transported up mountains and across seas and lakes by a variety of transports ranging from hot air balloons, motorcycle sidecar, tram and train.
It will pass the monumental Stonehenge and climb the heights of Mount Snowdon. — Agencies