London 2012 Olympic Flame To Be Lit By Sun's Rays In Greece
The Olympic Flame will be lit by the sun's rays on the morning of May 10 in Greece at the start of its journey to the London 2012 Games, Lord Coe announced today.
An hour-long lighting ceremony amid the historic ruins of the home of the ancient Games at the Temple of Hera in Olympia will signal the start of an eight-day relay around Greece before the flame hits British shores, starting in Cornwall.
The flame is due to arrive at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on May 17 where a London 2012 representative will be ready for the official handover.
Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman, said: "It gives me great pleasure to confirm 10 May as the flame lighting date and Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose as the Olympic Flame's arrival point into the UK.
"My team is looking forward to working with the Hellenic Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Defence and our commercial partners to create exciting events to mark the flame's Greek provenance and its arrival to our shores."
Once in Britain, the flame will be taken on a nationwide 70-day relay, from May 19 to July 27, ending with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony.
The Greek leg of the torch relay is set to showcase the beauty and history of the Greek mainland and islands to the world, according to London 2012.
The second torchbearer on the first day and the penultimate torchbearer on the last day of the Greek leg have been handpicked by London 2012, which is remaining tight-lipped on their names.
London 2012 will only say they are inspirational people from the UK and more would be revealed closer to the time.
The Olympic Flame will then be the guest of honour on board a gold-liveried Airbus 319, flight number BA2012, which will take it from Athens to Britain.
British officials who have travelled to Athens for the handover, heralding the third time that London has staged the Games, will also be on board the specially-chartered British Airways flight. London hosted the Games in 1908 and 1948.
As the Olympic Flame is classified as symbolic it is allowed to be carried on board an aircraft subject to special authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority.
It will travel in a ceremonial lantern that is secured in a specially designed cradle.
This is firmly fixed to its seat on the plane using a secure holding device. The lantern is designed so the Olympic Flame can burn safely for up to 30 hours.
It should be early evening when it touches down at RNAS Culdrose, near Helston in Cornwall, on May 18.
Preparations should be ready for it to start the British leg of the torch relay nearby at Land's End. It will be carried by 8,000 torchbearers for 8,000 miles across to the start of the Games. The aim is that the flame is taken to within 10 miles of 95% of the population.
London 2012 said the arrival at RNAS Culdrose is to acknowledge the vital contribution that maritime and coastal search and rescue services make for the British isles.
RNAS Culdrose is home to most of the Navy's Merlin and Sea King helicopter squadrons that are supporting operations around the world.
Up to 1,000 guests are set to descend on the site to welcome the flame.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I am delighted that Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose will be the first to welcome the Olympic Flame into the UK.
"It is a fantastic opportunity for the armed forces to be involved in such a unique event, and one they can take pride in for years to come."
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "When BA2012 touches down in Cornwall carrying the Olympic torch it will be a hugely exciting moment. This kicks off our incredible torch relay right around the country and I'm sure the torch will spread Olympic fever everywhere it goes."
Captain Willie Entwisle, commanding officer of RNAS Culdrose, said: "We are honoured that the Olympic Flame will arrive in the UK by landing at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose. Our personnel, many of whom are currently supporting the Royal Navy on operations across the globe, are very excited that the build-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games will start here.
"We are delighted to be playing such an important part in this once-in-a-lifetime event."