Beckham carries a torch for an old flame

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AFTER seven years of planning, Olympics organisers were taking no chances with the transfer of the ceremonial Olympic Flame on to British soil.

The golden-liveried plane which arrived in Cornwall from Athens at 7.25 pm yesterday was carrying four flickers from the Greek source in miners’ lanterns, in case of any problems lighting the cauldron at RAF Culdrose.

A light from Culdrose will arrive in Land’s End by Navy helicopter early today, for the start of a 70-day torch relay through the four countries of the UK to the opening of the games in London on July 27.

The lanterns and the torches have been made as proof as possible against storms, fumbles and freak occurrences, but back-up flames will be just behind the front of the procession at every stage.

First off the flight from Athens were a team of specially selected young sporting stars, dressed in white. They were followed by the Princess Royal, carrying the lead lantern with a flame no bigger than a candle’s inside it.

With the help of David Beckham, using an official golden torch as a firelighter, the cauldron was lit and the first of many hushed speeches was made as the flame sprang back into majesty.

Lord Coe, former running hero and now chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, said: “The arrival of the Olympic Flame on home soil is a magical moment for any host country.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was among the welcoming party, and said: “Eight thousand people will pass it from hand-to-hand, the length and breadth of Britain.

“It will visit a thousand towns and be seen by millions; with every step, the excitement will build.”

Coloured lights of red, white and blue, were beamed into the sky for the occasion from the communications relay site at Goonhilly, Cornwall, which passed on the first live colour transmissions from the Olympics when they took place in Mexico in 1968.

Goonhilly is also celebrating this year the 50th anniversary of the first transatlantic TV in July 1962, using the famous Telstar satellite.

Former Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie will start the torch relay today.

After running 300 metres he will pass the flame to 18-year-old Anastasia Swallow, who has represented Great Britain four times as a surfer. Later today, it will take off in a balloon with Ben Fogle.

The flame was kindled from the rays of the sun at Olympia, home of the original games.