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18/05/2012 15:27 BST | Updated 18/07/2012 06:12 BST

London 2012: Olympic Flame Arrives In Cornwall At Start Of Torch Relay

The Olympic flame has arrived in Cornwall from Athens at the start of a 70-day torch relay ahead of the 2012 games.

The Olympic Flame arrived in the UK tonight ahead of a 70-day tour of the country.

Footballer David Beckham, the Princess Royal, Lord Coe, chairman of Games organisers Locog, and London Mayor Boris Johnson flew from Athens, Greece, with the flame.

"When you're concentrating on the stadiums, the facilities and all the thing that go on around it, it's only when the torch comes into your possession and it gets here you think 'this is it'," said the Princess Royal.

They were on board British Airways flight BA2012, a gold-liveried plane named The Firefly.

The Olympic Flame was held in four different lanterns, which were fastened into specially designed cradles in seats 1A and 1B for the near four-hour flight from Athens - the first time British Airways has carried a live flame in its history.

The Airbus 319 jet landed at 7.25pm at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, near Helston, Cornwall.

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Above: BA2012 as it arrived in Cornwall

The Princess Royal carried the lantern containing the flame from the aircraft, accompanied by Beckham, who hopes to play for the Team GB football squad, Lord Coe, Mr Johnson and five British sporting teenagers.

A welcoming party including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg greeted the delegation as they stepped off the plane.

Once on British soil, the distinctive gold London 2012 torch was lit from the lantern and was passed to former England captain Beckham.

He then climbed on to a stage and used the torch to light a cauldron at the air-sea rescue base, where it will burn overnight.

More than 500 guests were present at Culdrose, which is home to most of the Navy's Merlin and Sea King helicopter squadrons.

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Above: Dennis Coles from Scotland, Georgia Higgs from Cornwall, Sakinah Muhammad from London, Chloe Brown from Northern Ireland and Sean White from Swansea with David Beckham and the Olympic flame.

Lord Coe said: "The arrival of the Olympic Flame on home soil is a magical moment for any host country.

"It will connect millions of people around the UK to the Games in a unique way and allows us to celebrate the best of the UK and its people."

Johnson said: "This is a fantastic moment for the London Games.

"With every day of the Torch relay, the excitement will build around the country as we look forward to this fantastic festival of sport and culture.

"It also signals the beginning of delivering the wonderful post Games legacy we have promised Londoners that continues to build on the jobs and economic growth that are already benefiting every corner of the capital."

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Above: David Beckham with the Olympic torch

The torch visits the four nations of the UK before being carried into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford on 27 July for the opening ceremony of the Games.

It will travel 8,000 miles through 1,019 cities, towns and villages, on foot or in convoy, and drop in at UK landmarks like the Giant's Causeway and Stonehenge.

It will be carried by bearers, or taken in a convoy, and will also be transported by boat, bicycle, tram and train.

The flame, meant to represent purity, was kindled from the rays of the sun using a parabolic mirror in a ceremony on May 10 at Olympia, the home of the ancient Olympic Games.

It was taken on a 1,800-mile relay around Greece before being handed over to the Princess Royal during a rain-soaked ceremony last night at the Panathenaic Stadium, venue of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The flame was handed over to London to host the Games for the third time since the birth of the Olympics - in 1908, 1948 and now 2012. No other city has staged the Games three times.