The Olympic flame was the most important of all VVIPs as it arrived in Cornwall on a specially chartered plane, sprayed gold and given the call sign BA2012.
The sense of excitement was palpable on the plane as a high-powered delegation, including HRH The Princess Royal, London 2012 chairman Seb Coe, Olympics minister Hugh Robertson and London mayor Boris Johnson accompanied the priceless cargo – housed in a safety lantern and positioned in seat 1A – back from Athens.
After ten years of bidding, campaigning, planning, preparation and hope, this was perhaps the biggest moment yet of a £9.3 billion project that will dominate the national conversation for the next three months.
“No smoking,” said the captain. “Unless you are the Olympic flame.”
But the big laughs were reserved for Johnson, who broke from protocol to describe the flame as jetting in on a ‘custard comet’ – not exactly the stirring image organisers were trying to create.
Princess Anne brought the lantern down the steps of the A319 aircraft, which touched down at RNAS Culdrose just 14 seconds behind schedule – a promising omen for the 70 days ahead.
And David Beckham lit one of the golden torches that will be carried by 8,000 runners over the next two months and ignited a special cauldron.
“The arrival of the Olympic flame on home soil is a magical moment for any host country,” said Coe.
“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.”
Millions are expected to line the route of the relay and three-time Olympic champion sailor Ben Ainslie, who has just won a record six world Finn title, will be the first official torchbearer on UK soil.
A Royal Navy search and rescue squadron will deliver the flame to Land’s End where the relay will formally start just after 7am, travelling just over 100 miles to a celebration event in Plymouth later that day.
After running 300 metres Ainslie will pass the flame to Anastassia Swallow, 18, a member of the junior British surf team. The other torchbearers at the UK’s most westerly point will be Eric Smith, 76, Victoria Smith, 16, and Stephen Brady, 59.
Forecasters are predicting that the weather will be damp and drizzly as the relay begins but will brighten up later.
© Sportsbeat 2012
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