London 2012: Olympic Torch Begins Its Journey to London

Avi Wolfman-Arent@@awolfmancomethCorrespondent IIMay 10, 2012

ATHENS, GREECE - MAY 10:  High Priestess Ino Menegaki  lights the London 2012 Olympic Torch during the Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame at Ancient Olympia on May 10, 2012 in Olympia, Greece.  (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Keep it dialed in here for the latest news on everyone's favorite traveling artisan lantern, the Olympic torch.

Update (5/23):

There's no shame in getting lost.

And if anyone tells you otherwise, kindly mention that even the Olympic freaking torch loses its bearings sometimes.

Or at least its caretakers do.

From The Daily Mail:

It's only been in town for five days, but the Olympic torch took a wrong turn in Bristol today delaying the relay by 10 minutes...The torch left the foggy streets of Bristol for North Somerset at 5.50am before travelling by convoy to visit Nailsea, Backwell and Flax Bourton.

But as it returned to Bristol via Nailsea, the convoy took a wrong turn in Failand.

I know what you're thinking and yes, Failand is a real town. By some beautiful stroke of cosmic intervention it also happens to be where this folly to end all follies took place.

The universe never ceases to amaze.

-----End of Update-----

Update (5/22):

Black Eyed Peas front man turned the torch relay into a guerrilla music video on Monday during his short stint with the Olympic flame.

The gregarious music icon thrilled spectators by moonwalking with the flame, and later revealed to the Associated Press that he plans to release "a little Olympic mash-up" around his torch-bearing episode.

“I had some video cameras that were recording me running the torch, so I am going to do a video to my moonwalk moment," he told the AP.

Elsewhere, the flame keeps runnin', runnin' and runnin', runnin' and runnin', runnin'....

-----End of Update-----

Update (5/21): 

And we’re off.

The Olympic flame touched down in the British seaside town of Land’s End this past Saturday, marking the official start of the 70-day Olympic torch relay.

According to the Associated Press, day one was not without disturbance.

Police officers apprehended a man who got too close to the torch, signaling that security will be tight along the 8,000-mile route. There was also a bit of map confusion, with some folks unaware that the flame would traverse parts of its route in an enclosed convoy rather than in open-air.

All in all, though, the mood was celebratory: streets lined with jubilant supporters, Union Jacks a-waving, camera bulbs a-popping.

Police said an estimated 100,000 gathered to see the beginning of the relay, a larger-than-expected turnout according to BBC reporter John Kay.

By most accounts, the torch relay—and by some extension, the entire UK Olympic experience—is off to a smashing start.

-----End of Update-----

Update (5/16): Ladies and gentlemen, we have a David Beckham sighting.

A day after he schmoozed with President Obama at the White House, the English soccer star is headed for Greece where he will help escort the Olympic flame back to Great Britain.

According to The Guardian, Beckham will take part in what is known as the "official handover ceremony" at the famous Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

Then it's back to Britain, where the torch will begin its 70-day parade around the Isles.

I think I speak for all humankind when I say, "Mr. Beckham, please don't let that hot, hot flame near your beautiful, beautiful face."

-----End of Update-----

Day One (5/10):

The Olympic torch began its long trek to London today in Athens, Greece, ancestral home of the summer games.

After a nine-day meander around the Hellenic Republic, the torch will begin its UK odyssey in the far western ocean hamlet of Land's End.

The journey lasts 70 days, traverses 8,000 miles and will culminate on July 27 with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in London.

Some quick facts about this year's iteration of the torch (all facts via unless otherwise stated):

— Greek actress Ino Menegaki first lit the 2012 torch before passing it to former British open water swimmer Spyros Gianniotis, a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics (via the AP).

— Ninety-five percent of UK residents live within 10 miles of the torch relay route.

— The torch itself features 8,000 small holes, one for each of the torchbearers.

— The torch will reach its northernmost point on June 10 when it visits the town of Lerwick on the Shetland Islands.

— The torch will first cross over the M-25, London's version of the beltway on July 21, six days before the Games begin.

— As always, a gaggle of celebrities will take part in the torch relay. Names mentioned so far include Kylie Minogue, Will Smith, Jackie Chan and Pele. There's even been some talk of a Spice Girls reunion, but so far no solid commits (via

— The names of the 700 celebrity torch-bearers are expected to be officially released some time this spring (via The Daily Mail).

— Protesters made several attempts to extinguish the flame when it passed through London in 2008 en route to Beijing (via The Guardian).

Besides signaling that the Olympics are near, I'm not sure what to make of the torch relay.

It's an easy event to dismiss. Between all of the celebrity glad-handing and excessive pomp, it can feel disingenuous—like a two-month photo op dressed up in false honor.

However, if you distill some of that distraction and look at the bones of the idea, it's a pretty cool concept. What better representation of the Olympic movement than 8,000 people working toward a common cause?

Athletic competition has clearly become the Games' defining attribute, but at least the torch relay has retained some of the movement's founding edifices—unity, participation, brotherhood—and brought them to bear.


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