LONDON 2012: Princess Anne takes custody of Olympic flame ahead of torch relay
THE Olympic flame is in British custody for the first time in 64 years - and will soon be heading back to Cornwall.
HISTORIC: London 2012 officials, led by Princess Anne, takes custody of the Olympic flame - it arrives in the UK for its 8,000 mile journey on Friday (Getty Images via Locog)
After an eight-day relay in Greece, where the flame was kindled by the rays of the sun in Olympia last week, the torch was formally handed over to London 2012 organisers at a ceremony in the Panatheneic Stadium in Athens.
Princess Anne, London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, London mayor Boris Johnson, sports minister Hugh Robertson and David Beckham were the among the British delegation in the rainy Greek capital.
Greek Olympic committee chief Spyros Capralos passed over the torch to British Olympic Association president and International Olympic Committee member Princess Anne.
She then lit a special safety lamp, which will be housed overnight at the British ambassador's residence and tomorrow transported from Athens airport to arrive on UK soil at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.
Princess Anne will then carry the flame from the aircraft - which has been spray painted gold and given the call sign BA2012 for the occasion - before handing over to Beckham, who will ignite a torch and light a cauldron at the air sea rescue base.
The 8,000 mile, 8,000 runner torch relay will then commence on Saturday morning with three-time Olympic champion sailor Ben Ainslie carrying the torch on its first leg from the famous Land's End signpost.
"For the past eight days our two countries have connected in the values of this great Olympic movement," London 2012 chairman Seb Coe told his hosts in Athens.
"Like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, this flame belongs to the world and arrival of the flame in the host nation is a resounding and clarion call for the best athletes to gather.
"Villages, towns and cities across the United Kingdom have been planning to welcome the flame for a number of years.
"On its journey from this historic stadium, the story of the flame will be about those who carry it, their stories will inspire, everyday people doing extraordinary things, all too often unheralded.
"We are a modern and confident United Kingdom and their stories will inspire as we unite and line the streets to celebrate the flame, which will shine a light on every region of every nation.
"This summer we welcome the world to London and we look forward to the incredible events that will unfold there. Please join us in a sporting celebration that will capture the imagination of the world."
© Sportsbeat 2012