Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor, Ben Ainslie, will start off the torch relay when the Olympic flame arrives in Britain next week ahead of the London Games, organizers said on Thursday.
Three-times Olympic gold medalist Ainslie will be the first of 8,000 torchbearers to run with the flame on its 12,875 km journey around Britain before it is used to light the Olympic stadium’s cauldron at the opening ceremony on July 27.
“I am extremely honoured to be the first torchbearer,” said Ainslie, who will start the relay at Land’s End, the most southwesterly point of England, early on May 19.
Other torchbearers during the 70-day tour of the country include celebrities and locals nominated for their good works, including a 100-year-old London woman who runs exercise classes.
Also taking part will be 212 children, all aged 12. Each will carry the torch for a stint averaging 300 metres, wearing a white-and-gold tracksuit.
The torch was lit from a flame kindled by the sun’s rays in a ceremony at ancient Olympia on Thursday attended by British and Greek officials. It set off on a week-long relay around Greece and will be flown to Britain on May 18.
Ainslie will bid for a fourth successive Olympic gold medal after winning at the Beijing, Athens and Sydney Olympic Games. He also took a silver at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
He will compete in the Finn class in Weymouth and Portland on England’s south coast.
“Ben is the perfect person to start the relay in Land’s End as he grew up in the area and is an inspirational sportsman who has worked hard to achieve his goals,” Seb Coe, chairman of the London Olympic organizing committee, LOCOG, said.
The gold-coloured, triangular, aluminum torch, likened to a large cheese-grater because of its meshed appearance, will take in landmarks around Britain, travelling by canal boat, cable car, tram, steam train, hot air balloon and motorcycle sidecar, and will be protected by police teams.