Olympic Flame handed over to London

17 May 2012 / 18:25

The Olympic Flame has been handed over to London.

David Beckham was at the ancient Panathenaic Stadium to help collect the flame and bring it back home. The historic event took place in a rain-hit sundown ceremony at the stadium in Athens, venue of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The flame has been handed over to London to host the Games for the third time since the birth of the Olympics - in 1908, 1948 and now 2012. No other city has staged the Games three times.

Despite the buzz triggered by the last-minute news that the LA Galaxy star and former England skipper was flying in specially to be part of the ancient ceremony, the more formal duties came down to the Princess Royal as leader of the British delegation to Athens.

Both she and Karolos Papoulias, the Hellenic Republic president, sat in ancient thrones that are part of the stadium during the hour-long ceremony.

The flame was handed to the Princess, who was watched closely by other members of the official delegation including London 2012 chairman Lord Coe, Olympics minister Hugh Robertson, London mayor Boris Johnson, Beckham and five British sporting teenagers.

Each member of the British VIP delegation sheltered under blue umbrellas as they walked through the centre of the stadium to their front-row seats.

Everyone from the Princess Royal to Mr Robertson were named over the loudspeakers and greeted by cheers from the crowd. There was also a chuckle from British people in the crowd as the announcer twice insisted on introducing Beckham as Sir David Beckham.

The British delegates fly back on Friday evening, landing at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, where they will attend a special ceremony welcoming the flame.

A 70-day relay, involving 8,000 torchbearers covering 8,000 miles, will then take the flame to east London's Olympic Stadium and the opening of the Games on July 27.