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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: Olympic torch travels through London

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posted on Jun, 26 2004 @ 03:12 PM
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LONDON (AP) - The Olympic torch traveled through London on a rainy Saturday, with Roger Banister hoisting the flame at Wimbledon to mark the start of a relay that ended with a concert near Buckingham Palace.
 

British tennis stars Tim Henman and Virginia Wade were among those to participate in the eight-hour run past such landmarks as the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Globe theater and Piccadilly Circus.

Other torchbearers representing Britain were track and field Olympic champions Sebastian Coe and Jonathan Edwards and former boxing champion Frank Bruno.

Tens of thousands packed The Mall near Buckingham Palace at the finish. Five-time Olympic rowing gold medalist Steve Redgrave used the flame to light a ceremonial cauldron on a stage where James Brown, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne and other stars performed.

The Royal Air Force's Red Arrows squadron flew overhead, trailing plumes of red, white and blue smoke.

"As we pass the flame on towards Athens, let us wish them well for their games," said Princess Anne, president of the British Olympic Association.

The British Broadcasting Corp. estimated that about 80,000 people lined The Mall to watch Redgrave end the 30-mile relay.

Bannister, who ran the world's first sub-4-minute mile 50 years ago, held up the torch at Wimbledon's Royal Box to applause from about 9,000 fans huddled under umbrellas.

"The Olympics is a wonderful event and it symbolizes the union of all countries and all peoples," Bannister said. "I am sure that Athens will put on a great games."

Rain wiped out plans to parade the torch around Centre Court, which was covered by a tarpaulin. Instead, the 75-year-old Bannister carried the flame through the Wimbledon clubhouse and handed it to Henman.

He ran along a route lined by ball boys and girls, court stewards, police and firefighters and "Henman Hill" a grassy slope where ticketless fans watch his matches on a big screen.

Henman passed the torch to Wade, the last British player to win the singles title at the All England Club in 1977. Henman bowed and Wade curtsied before heading down Wimbledon Park Road.

The flame traveled on a traditional black London taxi toward the Brixton district. From there, it was carried on foot to Greenwich, where a boat took it across the Thames River.

Runners passed through the recently redeveloped Docklands area and the East End the home of London's poorest residents before reaching the Tower of London and crossing Tower Bridge.

The list of celebrity torchbearers included Heather Mills McCartney, wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney; and actress Parminder Nagra, star of the film "Bend it Like Beckham."

The torch is on the final European leg of a trip that featured stops for the first time in Africa and South America. London is the 23rd of 33 cities on the route.

The flame began its trek March 25 in the games' ancient birthplace at Olympia in Greece. It is to return to Greece July 9 and head to Athens for the start of the games Aug. 13.




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