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Olympic Torch Heads For Opening Ceremony After Finishing 8,000 Mile Journey (PICTURES)

27/07/2012 15:39 | Updated 27 July 2012

After 70 days and 8,000 miles, the Olympic flame has wound its way down the River Thames towards the London 2012 opening ceremony, as the Prime Minister David Cameron declared London would give the world "the greatest show on earth".

The torch sailed down the river onboard £1m royal barge Gloriana, last seen at the Diamond Jubilee, as the Red Arrows flew over Glasgow and bells rang out across the country chiming to accompany Big Ben's special three minute ring on Friday morning.

People across the nation rang doorbells, handbells and church bells in a cacophony of sounds ordered by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, entitled "All The Bells" and commissioned by the London 2012 Festival.

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The royal barge Gloriana carries the Olympic flame along the river Thames

And Culture minister Jeremy Hunt caused raucous laughter after enthusiastically ringing a bell and dropping the clanger, which flew off and almost hit a nearby woman.

Red arrows, trailing red, blue and white smoke, began their flypast in Edinburgh, and will later head to Belfast, Cardiff and the London opening ceremony.

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The Red Arrows perform a flypast over Edinburgh Castle

Even Mitt Romney, the US presidential hopeful, derided by Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson for calling the Games preparation "disconcerting", declared he believed: "London is ready."

The wife of his rival, First Lady Michelle Obama, stuck to positive sentiments during her first day in London.

Mrs Obama dropped in to Team USA's headquarters to wish the athletes good luck.

It was followed by a kick about with David Beckham at the US ambassador's residence as part of her Let's Move! campaign, attended by 1,000 British and American schoolchildren.

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Michelle Obama and David Beckham at a Let's Move! event

After telling the crowd she was "so excited" to be there, she turned to the US athletes standing behind her and said: "You're not born an Olympian, right? In fact, many of them started out just like you, just playing.

"What they did do is they stuck with it. When they got tired and frustrated or fell short, they didn't give up."

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Michelle Obama scores a goal as she plays football at Winfield House in Regent's Park

Mrs Obama is leading the US presidential delegation which includes a ringside seat at tonight's ceremony and attending a reception at Buckingham Palace.

As the clock ticks closer to the opening ceremony, the final leg of the Olympic flame's journey is almost complete, having disembarked the royal barge after a trip through the maze at Hampton Court Palace and rowed by 16 former British Olympic rowing crew members, along Richmond Riverside, Putney Embankment, Battersea Bridge, the South Bank and past Tower Bridge to City Hall.

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Olympic flame burning in the cauldron on the royal barge Gloriana

Record rainstorms meant the torch was not always kept burning, but 8,000 torchbearers ran on in the rain regardless. And burly security guards batted aside attempts to steal the torch on its way around the UK, including a 17-year-old man arrested for attempting to grab the torch in Gravesend, Kent.

The Olympic icon will take centre stage at the evening's £27million opening ceremony when a mystery final torch carrier will light the cauldron in front of more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations.

Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, paid tribute to the work of those who had made his ceremony happen: "This is a show that has been built out of our volunteers. They are the people who have turned up in rain and terrible conditions and have built this show."

Not everyone's day has been entirely plain-sailing. As well as the culture minister's wayward bell end, tourists and commuters face another day of transport problems, including tube delays at North Greewich, where the Games' gymnastics and basketball is being held, after a signal failure on the Jubilee line.

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Great Britain's Alison Williamson checks her arrows during the Women's Individual Archery Ranking Round at Lords Cricket Ground, London

Archery fans have been duped into buying fake tickets for the tournament at Lord's cricket ground. Others saw the event was "unticketed" and turned up to watch - but the event is traditionally held behind closed doors.

A London 2012 spokeswoman said: "Tickets have not been advertised or sold by LOCOG for the archery ranking event. We have always made it clear that the preliminary rounds are not open for spectators."

SEE ALSO:

The Olympic Flame On Its Final Journey
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