Olympic torch to go on 8,000-mile tour of Britain

Olympic torch to go on 8,000-mile tour of Britain

Published May. 18, 2011 12:32 p.m. ET

Past major city landmarks and through remote islands, the Olympic torch will travel the length of Britain during a 70-day relay ahead of the 2012 London Games.

Olympic organizers on Wednesday named 74 locations where 8,000 torchbearers will carry the flame after it arrives from Greece in exactly a year's time on May 18, 2012.

The 8,000-mile relay will start the following morning at the southern tip of Britain at Land's End in Cornwall, and organizers plan to hold evening celebrations on 66 days of the journey.

The flame will pass through England's major cities, including Manchester and Birmingham, as well as the Welsh capital Cardiff and Scotland's capital Edinburgh.


The relay will also go off the mainland to visit Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Shetland, Orkney and the Isle of Lewis.

The flame will spend the week in London before it is used to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium on Friday, July 27, 2012.

''The flame will shine a light across the regions and islands of the UK, bringing people together from the rolling borders of Scotland, the majesty of the Peak District and the big skies of the Fens and our thriving cities,'' said Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organizing committee.

The torch could also go outside Britain's borders to Ireland.

''It is our ambition to take the torch through Dublin,'' Coe said. ''We are still working through the fine details.''

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.

''People used the torch as an opportunity for protest (before the Beijing Games) when it should really be an opportunity for peaceful celebration,'' said Craig Reedie, Britain's International Olympic Committee member. ''That's why the decision was taken by the IOC to make it a domestic relay only and I think that can only benefit London and Britain.''

Security will still be high to keep the relay from being disrupted by domestic protesters. London has recently seen large protests against the Conservative-led government's austerity plans, which aim to cut 310,000 government jobs and raise university tuition fees.

''I don't really sit here and think this is going to be catalyst for massive demonstrations. I think people get this,'' Coe said. ''This is a once in a lifetime opportunity - don't mix or confuse messages here. This is about celebrating the fact the games are here.''

Coe said that 90 percent of the 8,000 torchbearers will be ordinary members of the public who can be nominated to take part through www.london2012.com/olympictorchrelay.

But it is likely that sports stars - including former England captain David Beckham, who is sponsored by relay backer Samsung - will also run with the torch.

There will be a more detailed breakdown later this year on where the torch will visit each day in Britain, including sports venues.

The torch has been designed by a London-based studio headed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, but an image is yet to be released.


Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarrisUK