LONDON (July 22, 2012): Olympics fable Nadia Comaneci held the 2012 torch aloft over London on Saturday as the flame began a seven-day tour of London that will culminate at the Games opening ceremony.
Olympics organisers hope that with the flame now in the British capital, attention will turn towards sport and the final countdown to the Games — and away from the security and transport fears that dogged the last week.
Comaneci, the perfect 10-scoring Romanian gymnast who won five gold medals over the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, passed the flame on to British ex-NBA basketball star John Amaechi atop the North Greenwhich Arena — the former Millennium Dome — which will host the artistic and trampoline gymnastics as well as the basketball finals.
British triple jumper Phillips Idowu, a Beijing silver medallist tipped for gold in London, and footballer Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a heart attack during an FA Cup match in March, were among Saturday’s other torchbearers.
The flame was kept at the Tower of London on Friday night, where the British sovereign’s ceremonial jewels are kept, following a dramatic arrival in the city, a week ahead of the opening ceremony next Friday.
It was flown in on a Royal Navy helicopter and lowered to the ground by a marine commando carrying it in a miner’s lamp attached to his waist.
The final seven days in London are the culmination of an 8,000-mile (12,800-kilometre) journey around Britain that has taken the flame within an hour’s travel time of 95 percent of the British population, taking in famous sports venues, historic sites and places of outstanding natural beauty.
Its 36-mile (58-kilometre) tour Saturday around eastern London started at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, located astride the world’s prime meridian.
Schoolgirl Natasha Sinha, 15, started the relay at 7:20 am.