The lighting of the Olympic cauldron at next week’s opening ceremony will be a ‘wow moment’ and a decision on who does it is all but made, British Olympic Association (BOA) chief executive Andy Hunt said on Saturday.
The identity of the lighter, and even where the cauldron will be, is a closely-guarded secret -- and it has not always been one individual -- while the criteria for deciding who it should be is the subject of continuing public debate.
Hunt, the Team GB chef de mission and one of those involved in making the decision with organisers LOCOG, refused to divulge any details that might lead to identification of any individual.
“It’s a joint decision and discussions have taken place over quite some time,” he told reporters at a briefing. “We will see the outcome in just a few days’ time.
“The ceremonies committee, which is made up of Danny Boyle and the ceremonies team, will make a recommendation and have made recommendations we can choose to support or not,” he added.
Hunt said the debate was “ongoing” but there was a “mutually acceptable solution” and he was sure the outcome would be a proud moment for all.
“All I can say is I think it will be a ‘Wow’ moment and will bring together both of those dimensions,” added Hunt when asked whether the decision would be a case of honouring sporting achievement or going for a big impact.
Daley Thompson and Steve Redgrave are two of the main contenders for the honour next Friday.
Redgrave won rowing golds at five consecutive Olympics from 1984 to 2000 and is the bookmakers’ favourite, while Thompson won double decathlon gold and is a close friend of London 2012 chief and double Olympic 1,500 metres champion Sebastian Coe.
Both men will have already carried the torch on the relay before the final day. Double Athens gold medallist Kelly Holmes is second favourite with bookmakers Ladbrokes.
Former England soccer captain David Beckham was touted at one point but has been left out of the British Olympic team and has said the honour deserves to go to an Olympian who has won gold medals.
Roger Bannister, who in 1954 became the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes, is another name that has been mentioned. He never won Olympic gold, however.
The cauldron at the last Olympics to be held in London, in 1948, was lit by little-known former Cambridge University medical student John Mark who was chosen largely for his looks.
Matthew Pinsent, a four-times British rowing Olympic gold medallist, said not knowing who will light the cauldron, added to the sense of excitement.
“I don’t see why we need to name them now,” he told Reuters by telephone. “We need to have some mystery about the opening ceremony, otherwise it’s like watching a magic trick and knowing what’s going to happen before the magic.”
How many of the 542 British athletes will attend the opening ceremony remains an open question, given the lateness of the hour and the need to be ready for competition at the weekend.
“It won’t be a full delegation but I think it will be a good attendance, round 50 percent of the team,” said Hunt.
British athletes will vote for their flagbearer, with the result to be announced on Monday.