LONDON — The Olympic torch will visit famous sights such as Stonehenge on its journey around Britain before the London 2012 Games, organisers said Monday.
The flame will also scale mountains, telescopes, take a ride on the train and a dash through a shopping centre on its 70-day tour.
The flame is going on a 12,875-kilometre journey, with 8,000 runners bearing the torch for a mile each on its trip to the far reaches of the kingdom.
After being lit at Olympia in Greece, the flame will being its journey on May 18 at Land’s End and continue for 70 days until the opening ceremony of the Games on July 27.
There will be no international relay after the chaos caused by human rights protesters demonstrating against China’s hosting of the 2008 Games.
Security will be ever-present, with an 11-strong convoy of vehicles is likely to accompany the flame on its journey round Britain. Organisers say the policing levels would be “proportionate”.
The relay will go 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.
The schedule does not include a trip to the Irish Republic, something both London and Dublin were keen on following Queen Elizabeth II’s bridge-building visit in May.
London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said he wanted to see local communities organising events to celebrate as the flame comes to town.
“We saw the appetite around the royal wedding and that’s what we’re wanting to do,” the double Olympic gold medalist said.
The former middle distance runner denied the route was made so comprehensive in order to compensate those who had missed out on Olympic tickets.
“It was designed to get to as many people as we possibly could,” he said.
After setting off from Land’s End, the torch will go to the 1,085-metre summit of Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales, and then scale the giant telescope at the Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire, northwest England.
It will stop off for a ride in a TT sidecar on the Isle of Man en route to Northern Ireland, where it will visit the hexagonal basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway.
On June 8 the torch moves to Scotland, risking an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster before reaching John O’Groats, at the northwestern tip of Scotland.
The flame goes past the Angel of the North statue outside Newcastle on June 16, before it hops to a lantern for a ride on the The Flying Scotsman train.
On June 25, runners will zip through the Victoria Arcade shopping centre in Leeds, northern England, while the torch will visit the Stonehenge prehistoric monument on July 12.
When it arrives in the capital, it will spend the night in the Tower of London on July 20 before touring the city, heading down the River Thames from Hampton Court Palace to the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony.
Coe was confident they can keep the flame burning throughout.
“We’ve done a lot of testing on the flame,” he said. “We’ll have a team of flame experts every step of the way.”
The first torch relay was introduced at the modern Olympics ahead of the infamous 1936 Berlin Games where, after being lit in Greece, the flame was carried by 3,331 runners over 12 days to the German capital.
The first global torch relay was held in 2004 ahead of the Athens Games, where the flame was carried around the world before eventually arriving back in the Greek capital.
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
Photo By Frédéric Vincent [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.