Archive for Sunday, June 27, 2004

London’s Olympic torch relay gets rave reviews

June 27, 2004


— Tens of thousands of people Saturday packed The Mall near Buckingham Palace as London's leg of the Olympic torch relay drew to a close at a star-studded concert.

Five-time Olympic rowing gold medalist Steve Redgrave completed the eight-hour relay by using the flame to light a ceremonial cauldron on a stage where James Brown, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne and other stars performed.

The Royal Air Force's Red Arrows squadron flew overhead, trailing plumes of red, white and blue smoke and producing a huge whoosh that could be heard across central London.

"We are among the great world cities that have had the chance to host the games," said Princess Anne, president of the British Olympic Assn. "As we pass the flame on toward Athens, let us wish them well for their games."

The British Broadcasting Corp. estimated that some 80,000 people lined The Mall to watch Redgrave end a rainy 30-mile relay, which passed some of London's best-known landmarks.

This is the first time the Olympic torch has come to London since the Summer Games were held in the British capital in 1948. London is among five cities bidding to host the 2012 Olympics.

The trip began with a ceremony on a soggy Center Court at Wimbledon. Roger Bannister, who ran the world's first sub-4-minute mile 50 years ago, held up the flame in the Royal Box to loud cheers and applause from about 9,000 fans huddled under umbrellas.

"The Olympics is a wonderful event and it symbolizes the union of all countries and all peoples," Bannister said. "I am sure that Athens will put on a great games -- they did in 1896 and I am sure they will do so now."

The rain wiped out plans to parade the torch around Wimbledon's grass court, which was covered by a green tarpaulin. Instead, the 75-year-old Bannister carried the flame through the Wimbledon clubhouse and handed it to British tennis star Tim Henman.

The torch is on the final European leg of a 46,800-mile worldwide voyage, including stops for the first time in Africa and South America. London is the 23rd of 33 cities on the route.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.