70-day torch relay for 2012 London Olympics

The Olympic flame will make a 70-day journey across Britain

ahead of the 2012 London Games, with more than 8,000 people taking

part in a youth-dominated torch relay.

The flame will arrive in Britain from Greece on May 18, 2012,

and the relay route will take the torch to within an hour’s

distance of 95 percent of the population, organizers said

Wednesday.

Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson said the torch relay

will rally people behind the games.

“It has enormous power to inspire the country,” he said.

Robertson said at least 50 percent of the spots in the relay

will go to people under the age of 24. Organizers are working on a

system for selecting the torch bearers, which will include a

nomination process.

Sebastian Coe, head of the London organizing committee, said the

aim is to find torch bearers who “inspire young people.”

After the nationwide relay, the flame will arrive in London the

weekend before the cauldron is lit at the opening ceremony on July

27, 2012. Details of the relay route will be announced next

year.

After the international torch relay for the 2008 Beijing

Olympics was interrupted by protests by human rights activists in

London, Paris, San Francisco and other sites, officials decided to

keep future relays within the host nations, apart from the lighting

in Greece.

Security around the torch will be easier to control because it

is a national event, Robertson said.

“I cannot guarantee that on the day there will be no pressure

groups at all who will try to interrupt events, but I hope they

will not ruin an opportunity for people,” Robertson said.

The torch relay will be sponsored by Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and

Samsung.

Robertson and Coe reiterated that Olympic preparations will not

be threatened by the $39 million in spending cuts announced Monday

by Britain’s new coalition government.

The cut represents only 2 percent of the overall budget of the

Olympic Delivery Authority, the body responsible for building the

venues for the games.

“We have to deliver on projects that were promised and we’ll

make savings that don’t (affect) the final Olympic Games,”

Robertson said.