Olympics legend Nadia Comaneci carried the 2012 torch on the roof of the North Greenwich Arena as the flame began a seven-day tour of London that will culminate at the Games’ opening ceremony.
The perfect 10-scoring Romanian gymnast, who won five gold medals over the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, passed the flame on to British ex-NBA basketball star John Amaechi atop the former Millennium Dome, which will host the artistic and trampoline gymnastics as well as the basketball finals.
The organisers hope that with the flame now in the British capital, attention will turn towards the sport and the final countdown to the Olympics and away from the security and transport fears that dogged the last week.
The flame spent the night safe in the Tower of London, where the British sovereign’s ceremonial jewels are kept, following a dramatic arrival in the city, a week ahead of the opening ceremony on July 27.
It was flown in on a Royal Navy helicopter and lowered to the ground by a marine commando carrying it in a Davy lamp attached to his waist.
The 8,000-mile journey across Britain
The final seven days in London are the last legs of an 8,000-mile journey around Great Britain that has taken the flame within an hour’s travel time of 95% of the British population, taking in famous sports venues, historic sites and places of outstanding natural beauty.
“I’m very happy and honoured to be part of the torch relay,” said the 50-year-old Comaneci.
“Everybody’s very excited, just six days to the opening ceremony. This is a historic place and the Olympics came here three times and that’s unique too.”
Thousands of spectators were in the streets to witness the relay. Royal Marine Martyn Williams had the honour of bringing the flame to the host city, abseiling from a Sea King helicopter hovering over the entrance to the Tower of London.
“I obviously checked out the view on the way in and saw London and everybody down here and you think, ‘wow this is a bit more than just a normal abseil’,” said Williams.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.