Olympic torch handed over to London delegation
The torch will next go to Cornwall in southwest England to begin its 70-day journey around Britain and Ireland.
Thu, May 17, 2012 at 03:40 PM
PASSING THE TORCH: Princess Anne of Britain holds the torch with the Olympic Flame during the handover ceremony at the Athens' all marble Panathenian stadium. (Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP)
ATHENS — The Olympic torch was formally handed over from Greece to organizers of the London 2012 Olympic Games in a ceremony on May 17.
In damp weather at the Panathenaic Stadium that hosted the 1896 Olympics, the torch was presented to Princess Anne by the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos.
"It is with deep emotion and exceptional honor that I hand over the Olympic flame, wishing you every success in the organization of the Olympic Games in London," Capralos said.
Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter, who is a former Olympian and current British Olympic Association president, headed a British delegation that included London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
"For the past eight days our two countries have connected in a very special way in the spirit of peace and friendship of the flame and the values of this great Olympic movement," Coe said in reference to the Greek torch relay that has been running since the torch was lit at Olympia last week.
"Today's handover is an occasion of international significance and of importance as the flame belongs to the world."
He said millions of people in Britain were getting ready to welcome the torch.
"If the Olympic Games is about celebrating the best athletes in the world, the Olympic spirit is about celebrating the best in ourselves and our neighborhoods. We have found the very best in our torchbearers who like Olympic athletes will inspire a generation," Coe said.
He concluded: "This summer we welcome the world to London and we look forward to the incredible events that will unfold, that will capture the imagination of the world."
The British delegation, which also included football superstar David Beckam, will leave Athens on May 18 to take the torch to Cornwall in southwest England to begin its 70-day journey around Britain and Ireland.
Beckham, the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder and former England captain, was part of London's winning bid team in the contest to stage the Olympics and looks set to be included in Great Britain's football squad for the Games.
During the final push in the bidding campaign in 2005, Beckham said he was dreaming of the day the Olympics would be staged in east London, where he grew up.
The torch relay starts on Saturday at Land's End, the southwest tip of England, to begin an 8,000-mile (12,875-kilometre) journey around Britain, with a detour to also visit the Irish capital Dublin.
It will culminate in the flame being brought to the Olympic Stadium for the opening of the Games on July 27.
The flame, which was lit in ancient Olympia a week ago and traveled throughout Greece by torchbearers, was carried together around the all-marble stadium by Greece's Olympic weight-lifting gold medalist Pyrros Dimas and Chinese Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Li Ning, who lit the cauldron at the last Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
The two former athletes also carried an olive branch, a symbol of peace, which was cut from one of the world's oldest olive trees situated on the island of Crete.
Thousands of spectators attended the brief ceremony despite the dismal weather.
Greek presidential guards dressed in traditional attire and the philharmonic orchestra of the city of Athens were part of the ceremony which also included a circle of white-clad actresses dressed as ancient priestesses.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition