The Olympic Flame this evening flew into RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall thus lighting the 70-day fuse to the beginning of the London 2012 Games.
Footballer David Beckham lit a ceremonial cauldron to mark the arrival of the eternal symbol of the Olympiad on British soil.
THE Olympic Flame burns on English soil tonight for the first time in more than six decades after David Beckham lit a ceremonial cauldron at Culdrose air base.
To a fanfare from Royal Marines buglers, the England footballing legend ignited the eternal symbol of the Games in a ceremony beamed around the globe.
The event heralds a 70-day countdown to the beginning of the biggest sporting event since the 1966 World Cup.
The flame touched down at the Fleet Air Arm base after a four-hour flight from Athens just before 7.30pm.
A gold-liveried British Airways Airbus, named The Firefly, flew the flame in its lantern from Greece.
Also onboard the specially-chartered airliner were some 80 passengers including Princess Anne, Games supremo Lord Coe, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson.
It fell to the Princess Royal to carry the flame off the airliner, accompanied by Lord Coe and David Beckham.
They were greeted by a welcoming delegation, headed by Culdrose’s Commanding Officer Capt Willie Entwistle, deputy PM Nick Clegg, and Fleet Commander Admiral George Zambellas.
David Beckham told the cheering crowd: “As a nation we are going to have an amazing couple of months. I am proud to be part of this.”
Mr Clegg said the flame’s arrival, a precursor to the beginning of the Olympic torch relay which begins tomorrow, was an historic moment.
He added: “With every step, the excitement will build – and ten weeks from now, the world will watch as the flame arrives at the new Olympic Stadium, bringing with it the hopes of a nation.”
The flame was actually carried in four gold ‘lanterns’ – three serving as ‘backups’ – which were screwed into seats 1A and 1B on the Airbus; ordinarily no live flame is permitted to be carried on a civilian airliner.
While it covered the 1,650 miles from Greece to
The 500 or so guests – from Olympians to locals, 100 schoolchildren, as well as Culdrose personnel – were treated to performances by the Navy’s Black Cats Lynx helicopter display team and the Band of HM Royal Marines as they waited for the Airbus to arrive.
In addition to a small arena erected at the end of the runway, the BBC built a temporary set so their popular evening magazine programme The One Show, hosted by Chris Evans and Alex Jones, could be broadcast.
As well as that BBC1 show, the Beeb’s News Channel has been at the air station, near Helston, throughout the day, regularly telling the Olympic – and Culdrose – story.
With the pomp and ceremony at Culdrose now done, the flame is spending the night at Culdrose.
The flame, which was ignited by the rays of the sun in a traditional ceremony in Greece last week before being carried around the Peloponnese, was handed over to Princess Anne as president of the British Olympic Association in a rather wet Athens yesterday.
It’s been assigned a VIP suite in the wardroom and will be guarded by three Metropolitan police officers before an early morning flight to Land’s End.
A 771 NAS Sea King will carry the flame in its specially-designed gold container – which rather looks like a Victorian gas lamp – to the westernmost tip of England, where it will light the first torch at the beginning of an 8,000-mile journey around the land.
Pilots Lt Cdr Martin Shepherd and Lt Chris Whittington, observer Lt Cdr Richard Full and aircrewman Cpl Justin Morgan RM of 771 Naval Air Squadron have the momentous task of delivering the flame in Sea King Sierra 29 on the ten-minute flight.
On landing, Lt Cdr Full will jump out of the aircraft and take the flame to the start of the torch relay, where three-time gold medallist Ben Ainslie will begin the relay, which ends in London’s Olympic Stadium on the evening of July 27