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The cabin announcement was polite but firm: “Unless you happen to be the Olympic Flame, there is no smoking allowed.”
Commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, the Olympic flame’s origins lie in antiquity, where a fire was kept burning throughout the original Olympic Games.
In the modern era, the Olympic Torch is ignited several months before the opening ceremony in Olympia, Greece.
“The Olympic Flame lit in Olympia connects the ancient Games and the modern Games,” said Sebastian Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee.
For London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games, the torch relay will last 70 days, with 66 evening celebrations, six island visits and 8,000 people carrying the torch a total of about 8,000 miles.
The relay focuses on national heritage sites, locations with sporting significance, special events and brings the Olympics to within one hour of 95 percent of the UK population.
On May 16, 2012 a British Airways A319, with a custom gold livery and named “The Firefly,” flew from Heathrow to Athens to collect the flame. The flame was held in four different lanterns which were fastened into specially-designed cradles in the two front rows of the aircraft and guarded by a member of the torch security team.
“Well, obviously, carrying an actual ‘live flame’ onboard an aircraft isn’t something we usually do. We’ve had a number of procedures set up with the Civil Aviation Authority to be able to do that safely. We have somebody who sits next to the lantern that’s trained to deal with that and it’s quite unusual for us really. You could say it’s the pinnacle of my career so far, really,” says Chief officer Captain Kelvin Forster.
After an overnight stay at RNAS Culdrose, the Olympic Flame was flown to the UK’s most western point by a 771 Naval Air Squadron Sea King helicopter and carried to the famous First and Last signpost at Land’s End, where the first torch was lit.
The torch is slated to complete 80 percent of its tour of Britain in a security van. However, the Torch Relay includes exciting moments with extreme heights, high speeds and breath-taking spectacles as the Flame travels by different methods of transport including: power boat, ferry, steamboat, steam locomotives, electric trams, an open top bus, by motorcycle sidecar, a Paralympics road cycle, mountain bike, racehorses, horse-drawn carriage, zip wire and cable car. wt
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