After travelling nearly 8,000 miles, the Olympic Torch was finally welcomed to Buckingham Palace today by Prince William and Kate – signalling the final countdown to the opening ceremony tomorrow.
The smiling Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry witnessed the ‘torch kiss’ between Wai-Ming Lee and the next torchbearer John Hulse who carried it out of the palace towards Constitution Hill where it continued on to Hyde Park.
An estimated 80,000 crowd had gathered in the park to witness torchbearer Tyler Rix, a young footballer and musician, carry the flame on to the stage and light a huge cauldron to mark the start of a special concert to celebrate the torch’s arrival.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson told the crowd at Hyde Park: ‘I have never seen anything like this in all my life. The excitement is growing all the time, the Geiger counter of Olympic mania is going to go off the scale.
‘The people from around the world are coming and seeing the greatest city in the world there are some people coming who don’t yet know about the preparations we have been doing for the last seven years.
‘The stadiums are ready, the transport infrastructure is ready and our Team GB athletes are ready – they are going to win more gold, silver and bronze medals than you would need to bail out Spain and Greece together!’
It comes shortly after the Torch was bought to Downing Street by the first ever female member of the British Royal Navy, Kate Nesbitt, from Trafalgar Square along streets lined with cheering crowds.
Ms Nesbitt – also the second woman in the British Armed forces to be awarded the Military Cross and the medal for bravery for actions in Afghanistan during March 2009 – then passed the flame on to Florence Rowe, 81, outside Number 10 in front of Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha.
David Cameron has dismissed concerns that Britons might not be behind the London Olympics – saying the enthusiasm which had greeted the torch relay over the last two months showed they were not a London Games, not an England Games, but a United Kingdom Games.
Mr Cameron said: ‘Let’s put our best foot forward, we’re an amazing country with fantastic things to offer. This is a great moment for us, let’s seize it.
‘The worries we all have are the great hopes and fears. Our fingers are crossed for everything from the events to the weather to the transport infrastructure and everything else.
‘But, from where I stand, I think we’re set for a really remarkable few weeks for Britain, when we welcome the world, say this is a great country to come, enjoy the Olympics, but also think of all the other things we’ve got to offer.’
He went on: ‘Of course, this is a time of some economic difficulty for the UK, everybody knows that. But look at what we’re capable of achieving as a nation, even at a difficult economic time.
‘In terms of the country coming together, I think the torch relay really demonstrates that this is not a London Games, this is not an England Games, this is a United Kingdom Games.’
It comes after another star-studded day where Joanna Lumley and Absolutely Fabulous co-star Jennifer Saunders divided torch-carrying duties as it passed through Sloane Square, on a day when the flame was paraded in front of a number of London’s most iconic landmarks.
The pair smiled and waved to the hundreds of spectators who lined the route to cheer them on, as they completed the leg in a quick walk.
The women still had time to stop and soak up the atmosphere, as they struck up poses reminiscent of when Lumley and Saunders played Patsie and Edina in the hit sitcom.
Lumley and Saunders helped the torch on its way to see an even more grand sight than the streets of Chelsea.
By the time the ladies had their hands on the flame on Day 69 of the relay, the torch had already gone past a host of impressive London landmarks such as St Paul’s, Camden Lock and the Museum of London.
Tomorrow the torch will enter the Olympic Park, and will be used to light the cauldron. At least that’s one part of creative director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony that isn’t enshrined in mystery.
Crowds began to gather throughout the afternoon at Hyde Park where a finale concert took place in celebration of the torch’s arrival.
Earlier in the day, television icon Sir Bruce Forsyth larked about with the flame in front of the BBC White City Television Centre, and the 84-year-old showed once more just how much of a showman he is.
Fellow sitcom star and comedian David Walliams told how he was ‘humbled’ to carry the Olympic torch through Islington.
Walliams set off from the town hall in the centre of Islington while being cheered on by an appreciative audience.
The co-creator of Little Britain was surprised and delighted to have even been asked to carry the torch, and said that although jogging was not his forte, running and waving is far easier than swimming and waving.
Walliams has raised a great deal of money for various charities by undertaking gruelling long-distance swimming challenges.
Source: The Daily Mail