Olympic flame for London games formally handed over

The flame for the London Olympics, which start on July 27 after a 70-day torch relay around Britain, was formally handed over at a ceremony in a damp Athens on Thursday.

The flame, lit from the sun?s rays at the home of the ancient Games in Olympia a week ago, was handed over under grey and rainy skies to Britain?s Princess Anne by the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos.

The flame will be guarded overnight in the British embassy in Athens.

It will then be flown, safely contained in special lanterns for the journey, from Athens to a naval air base in south-west England on Friday before the relay starts at Land?s End on Saturday.

London Games chairman and twice Olympic 1,500-metre champion Sebastian Coe paid tribute to Greece for their hospitality and even thanked the hosts for providing ?British weather? for the ceremony.

?Thank you for the warm hospitality and welcome that you and your country have extended to us, particularly for laying on the British weather this evening,? said Coe.

?Like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Flame belongs to the world,? he told spectators including London mayor Boris Johnson and former England soccer captain David Beckham.

The 70-day torch relay will travel 12,800 km around Britain, taking in 1,018 villages and the 1,085-metre summit of Snowdon, before culminating with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in the Olympic Stadium on the opening day of the Games.

The relay will also take in landmarks around Britain with the flame travelling by canal boat, cable car, tram, steam train, hot air balloon and even motorcycle sidecar on the Isle of Man TT course.

More than 95 percent of the British population will be within an hour of the route. [Reuters]