altMay 17 - The Olympic Flame was officially handed over from Greece to Britain here this evening as the rain which had drummed down since mid-afternoon relented and gave way to a patch of blue sky.

The gold and yellow liveried British Airways plane which had carried the British party to Greece, and which will take them all back tomorrow, had the words "Our Moment To Shine" writ large upon it.

Until almost the last minute, it seemed that Greece's moment to shine would be clouded over entirely – but not so.

As Spyros Capralos, President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, passed the Torch over to the Princess Royal (pictured above in pale blue), the next stage of London's Games, which had looked such an unlikely prospect seven years ago, was set in motion.

The site of the first modern Olympics of 1896, its deep marble steps a health and safety nightmare in the drumming rain, was perhaps a third full of umbrella-sporting spectators for the event which, according to the chairman of the London Organising Committee, Sebastian Coe, signals that London 2012 is fully "operational".

In his speech of acceptance, Coe – light on his feet as ever – adapted his planned opening paragraph by adding thanks to the hosts "for laying on the British weather for us".

The main return gift as far as the crowd were concerned was the presence in the official party – alongside the Princess Royal, Coe, Boris Johnson (pictured below, left) and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson (pictured below, left) – of Sir David Beckham (pictured below, centre), as the Greek announcer insisted on keep introducing him.

Every mention of the man who might or might not be taking a future part in the Torch Relay, and who might or might not be a member of the Team GB football team, was enough to generate a whoosh of enthusiasm.

It will be a strange thing indeed if London 2012 sees no more of him.

"As we prepare to bring the Flame to the UK," Coe added, "we are reminded of our responsibility – like that of our predecessors in 1908 and 1948 – to stage Games that use the power of sport to unite the world in a celebration of achievement and inspiration in challenging times.

"A Games that will inspire the next generation to choose sport."

Earlier in the day, Coe had reflected: "This is really the beginning of the journey, once that flame starts on its route – eight thousand miles in 70 days, eight thousand torch bearers, within 10 miles, of 57 million people, over a thousand villages, towns and cities.

"I think people recognise there is no turning back now.

"It's theirs.

"In glorious technicolour."



By Mike Rowbottom

May 15 - The BBC has launched its coverage of this summer's Olympics here on the site where, 104 years ago, the first Games in London were held.

Among the leading names who will be fronting the BBC's coverage of the Games are Britain's 1988 Olympic 110 metres hurdles silver medallist Colin Jackson and American quadruple Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson.

It is the 15th Games the BBC will have covered, dating back to the last Olympics in London in 1948.

Approximately 2,500 hours of live Olympic action will be screened on the BBC, with footage available on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC HD, BBC One HD and on the BBC Red Button around the clock.

As part of its coverage, the BBC is launching Radio 5 live Olympics extra, a brand new 24-hour radio station devoted to delivering extra coverage of the Games.

The BBC will provide a record number of broadcast hours for a sports event, and, as well as Jackson and Johnson, its pundits will include a range of British Olympians, such as sprinter and Sydney 2000 400m bronze medallist Katharine Merry, double gold medal winning rower James Cracknell (pictured below) and Darren Campbell, a member of the British squad that won the 4x100m relay at Athens in 2004.

Veteran news reader Huw Edwards will be joined by Hazel Irvine and Trevor Nelson for the Opening Ceremony of London 2012 on July 27 in the Olympic Stadium.

Irvine will also join the BBC One breakfast team, while former England striker Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan, Clare Balding, Jonathan Edwards and John Inverdale will be among the presenters.

Another of the presenters, the BBC's face of Formula One Jake Humphrey, told insidethegames: "It is completely by luck that we have had the chance to work on the biggest Olympics in our lifetime.

"Being given the opportunity to work on the Games, coinciding with it being in London...we've schlepped around to various Olympics, but it is simply the fact this is in London, that is what I am most excited about."

The BBC is also scheduling a host of Olympic and London related programming in the build up to and during London 2012.

This will include a portrait of Jamaican 100 metres sensation Usain Bolt, Olympics Most Amazing Moments and a three part series called British Olympic Dreams.

"The London 2012 Olympic Games is likely to be the biggest sporting event in the United Kingdom in our lifetimes and the BBC's coverage will ensure that our audiences never miss a moment," said Roger Mosey, the BBC's London 2012 director.

"As the nation's broadcaster we are committed to ensuring that viewers get the most from their Olympic experience and our comprehensive coverage will deliver on that promise.

"Alongside our sport offering, our news services will be providing impartial news coverage on all the big Olympic stories for the duration of the Games."

"BBC has a history of innovation," added BBC Sport director Barbara Slater, herself a former gymnast who competed for Britain at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

"In 2004 in Athens it was the first interactive Games, in Beijing the first HD Games and 2012 will be the most comprehensive coverage ever of an Olympic Games.

"We will be covering every session of every sport of every venue."



By David Gold

altMay 13 - Olympic revenues are set to smash through the $7 billion (£4 billion/€5 billion) barrier in the period including the London 2012 Games, confounding the economic gloom afflicting much of Europe including Greece, cradle of the Movement.

Calculations made by insidethegames suggest that the final figure for revenues derived from broadcasting, sponsorship, tickets and licensing could reach, or even exceed, $7.6 billion (£4.7 billion/€5.9 billion).

This would be around 40 per cent more than the $5.45 billion (£3.38 billion/€4.21 billion) generated in 2005-2008, itself a record – a burst of acceleration worthy of Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt, especially given the background economic circumstances in Europe.

The final figure will fluctuate somewhat, depending on the exchange rate used to convert London 2012 revenues into United States dollars.

Earnings from London 2012 ticketing and licensing have also yet to be finalised.

However, income of $5.86 billion (£3.64 billion/€4.53 billion) from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, London 2012 broadcasting deals and the TOP worldwide sponsorship programme is already known.

London 2012 has also hit its target of £700 million ($1.13 billion/€871 million) in domestic sponsorship income, which would convert to a further $1.13 billion (£702 million/€873 million) at the present exchange rate.



By David Owen

altThe flame for the London 2012 torch relay and Olympic Games has been lit during a ceremony in Olympia, Greece.

It was kindled by actress Ino Menegaki, playing a high priestess, who caught the sun's rays in a parabolic mirror.

The flame went out briefly before being relit and transferred to the first torchbearer. The ceremony took place amid the Temple of Hera ruins, by the ancient Olympic Games stadium.

The flame flies to Britain on Friday 18 May for a 70-day relay around the UK .

At the temple ruins, actresses playing Olympic priestesses danced and men dressed as heralds put on a display symbolising athletic strength before the fire was ignited using the mirror.

The flame - an Olympic symbol meant to represent purity because it comes directly from the sun - was placed in an urn and taken to the stadium where the ancient Olympic Games were held.

It was transferred to a Greek torch which then "kissed" the London 2012 torch of Liverpool-born Greek world champion 10km swimmer Spyros Gianniotis.

He began to run with it on the first leg of its week-long journey around Greece.

Our correspondent James Pearce reported that the flame briefly went out while being held in an archaic pot at the side of the stadium, but the ceremony passed otherwise without incident in a country battling political and economic turmoil.

Chairman of the London games organisers, Locog, Lord Coe, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos were in Olympia for the moment that marks the countdown to London 2012.

Lord Coe told the BBC: "Today is the rallying call to the athletes - the best athletes of their generation - to come to London. That in itself is a big moment because it's the biggest sporting event in the calendar."

Liverpool-born Greek swimmer Spyros Gianniotis was first to run with the torch
In his speech to assembled Greek and Olympic dignitaries and a crowd gathered on the slopes of the stadium he said: "We are reminded this morning of sport's enduring and universal appeal, and the timeless Olympic values that transcend history and geography; values which, I believe, in these challenging times are more relevant than at any time before and particularly to young people the world over.

"In 1948, shortly after the Second World War, my predecessor stood where I am today and made the first tentative steps in turning the world from war to sport.

"We find ourselves in challenging times again and turn to sport once more to connect the world in a global celebration of achievement and inspiration."

'Peace symbol'

Mr Rogge said that like the messengers in ancient times who shared news of the Olympic truce - the laying down of arms for the Games - "the torchbearers who carry this flame to London will spread the message of sport's capacity to promote peace and to make our world a better place".

He said: "We have come to the ancestral home of the Olympic movement to light a flame that will soon cast its glow over the entire world.

"The flame that we kindle here, from the pure rays of the sun, is a powerful symbol of the tradition and values that underlie our movement.

"It is a beacon for the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect... a symbol of fellowship and peace."

The flame passed to first British torchbearer, Alex Loukos, with a torch "kiss"
First torchbearer Mr Gianniotis passed the torch on to Alex Loukos, 19, the first British torchbearer , a boxer and, in 2005, one of a delegation of east London schoolchildren who travelled to Singapore as part of London's final bid for the Games.

Mr Loukos said: "It feels like I'm coming full circle.

"I went out to Singapore and now I'm here, sort of kicking it off. It's a big honour and a privilege and I'm just trying to take it all in."

The torch is due to travel 2,900km (1,800 miles) through Greece, carried by 500 torchbearers, on a route circling the country and travelling out to the islands of Crete and Kastelorizo.

The Greek relay starts in Olympia and finishes in Athens, taking in Crete and Kastelorizo
Greece has seen huge demonstrations of social unrest in previous months, sparked by financial chaos and efforts to reach a deal with the European Union on a bail-out for its economy.

Talks to try to form a new government have been ongoing since elections on Sunday failed to produce a conclusive result.

And while Olympic leaders gathered for the pristine ceremony on Thursday, the economic crisis has hit Greek sport and games preparation.

Some Athens 2004 venues have fallen into disrepair and the country's athletics federation has suspended domestic events amid severe national funding cuts .

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

The BBC's home of 2012: Latest Olympic news, sport, culture, torch relay, video and audio

Several international companies including BMW have stepped in to help fund the torch's journey around Greece.

The Greek leg of the 2012 torch relay ends at the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, on Thursday 17 May, where the flame is handed over to London Olympic Games organisers.

The stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

The last torchbearers in Greece will be Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas and Chinese gymnast Li Ning - who lit the cauldron at the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony.

The 2008 Olympic torch relay, which travelled the globe, was dogged by pro-Tibet, democracy and anti-China protests.

The 2012 flame will travel straight from Greece to the UK on 18 May, flying into the Royal Navy airbase at Culdrose, near Helston in Cornwall.

The torch will travel 1,8000 miles through Greece and 8,000 in the UK
The UK torch relay begins at Land's End the following morning when three times Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Ben Ainslie will be the first to carry the torch on British soil.

He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: "It is a privilege for me to be asked but, more than anything, it is an exciting moment for the country.

"The arrival of the torch on home soil really brings home how close the Games are."

Olympic gold medal-winning track cyclist Sir Chris Hoy will carry the Olympic flame in Manchester on 23 June , he announced on Twitter.

Carried by 8,000 torchbearers, the Barber Osgerby-designed torch will cover 8,000 miles across all of the country's nations and regions.

It is due to reach the Olympic Stadium in Stratford on 27 July to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

For the ancient Greeks, fire was a divine element believed to have been stolen from the Gods.

A flame was first lit at the modern Olympics at the Amsterdam 1928 summer games, but it was not until Berlin 1936 that a torch relay route was set out from Greece to Germany.



By Claire Heald

The Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) ruling against the British Olympic Association's (BOA) policy of lifetime bans for serious doping offenders has polarised opinion within British sporting circles.

The BBC pundit and former world 110 metres hurdles champion Colin Jackson says he has "no doubt" that Dwain Chambers (pictured top and below), who served a two-year doping ban, will now be part of the British Olympic team in London.

"Dwain is in the top tier of sprinters in our country," he told BBC Sport.

"There is no doubt that he will be at the Olympics."

Jackson added: "Fans are used to him being in the team so already he has been accepted and it has no relevance to the other athletes."

But Jackson could not be more wrong. It is clearly of relevance to many athletes and former athletes.

European and Commonwealth 110m hurdles champion Andy Turner tweeted:  "Either make lifetime ban for drug cheats worldwide or scrap it completely.

"The world won't follow Britain's rules so I'm happy 4 Dwain.

"I know my opinion will annoy people but I don't care.

"I see convicted drug cheats competing on the world stage all the time"

Chambers was Britain's fastest 100m runner in 2011 and the 33-year-old won bronze in the 60m at the World Indoor Championships in Turkey last month.

Fellow British sprinter Tyrone Edgar has welcomed the possibility of Chambers running at this year's Olympics.

Edgar was part of the relay squad at the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Championships, where Britain won bronze.

"Good news we can now have D," he said on Twitter.

"Chambers in our 4x100m for Olympic Games.

"We need all our big guns running if we gonna win a medal in London."

Daniel Caines, the former world indoor 400m champion and past Olympian, also tweeted in favour of Chambers and others affected by the latest ruling: "Anyone else wanna argue lol... goalposts need to be the same for everyone.

"Let's all change the record and wish the athletes well."

Chambers' friend and Team GB team-mate, Christian Malcolm, said: "He has served his time now."

Malcolm, the 2010 European silver and Commonwealth bronze medallist, paid a considerable personal price for Chambers' cheating.

The 32-year-old and Chambers made up half the GB 4x100m relay team, also including Darren Campbell and Marlon Devonish, that raced to silver at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

But the British quartet had its medals taken away as a consequence of anchor-leg runner Chambers testing positive for a banned substance six months later.

"When he first failed the drug test I was the first person he called," Malcolm told the BBC Sport Wales TV programme.

"But what I heard in his voice was the disappointment and the fear.

"I was angry at him but I knew he was hurting and needed me.

"He came to stay with me for six to eight weeks during that period to get away from the media.

"He apologised and we had our discussions, and I have forgiven him for what he has done."

Malcolm, hoping to qualify for his fourth Olympic Games in London, added: "He was misled at the time.

"He was young, vulnerable and has learned from a hard mistake.

"Dwain has a good heart but went through a stupid period in his life where he was naive.

"There should be redemption and I like to see drug cheats come back because I like to see what they can do without the drugs.

"Are they really talented enough to perform well or did the drugs help them?

"If they come back without the drugs in their system and don't do well, that is a real punishment."

Kriss Akabusi, the former European 400m hurdles champion, writing on, said he was not in favour of the BOA life ban.

"I do not hold that view, and like Jonathan Edwards [Sydney 2000 Olympic champion and world record holder for the triple jump], I do believe in a world of second chances – but we are very much in the minority.

"Chambers has paid a very heavy price socially and economically, and shown enough contrition and remorse to be given a second chance in life full stop, in my humble opinion."

Akabusi's old training partner Roger Black, twice European 400m champion and Atlanta 1996 Olympic silver medallist, disagrees, and his views have been backed by numerous competitors within British sport.

Black told the BBC: "It's a sad day.

"It's hard to cheer someone on who's purposefully tried to cheat other athletes.

"I'm not going to boo him, I'm just going to be indifferent."

He added: "I like Dwain – I think he's remorseful, but it's easy to be remorseful when you're caught out.

"He didn't have to do it in the first place, because most of us didn't."

World marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe, in a message retweeted by Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton, said: "So now the biggest deterrent in our sport for cheating other athletes yourself and the public is two years."

Sotherton herself tweeted: "2nd chances/forgiveness... all the sports people who have been cheated out of medals etc can have that too, sadly no, who supports them? Me."

Gail Emms, Olympic silver medallist in the mixed doubles badminton at Athens 2004, was another to tweet: "100m final could be interesting for commentators. Lane 1 – haven't seen him for a few yrs cos of drugs ban. Oh yeah, same for lanes 3 and 7!!

"Sometimes the 'British' attitude to sport annoys me, but today I was proud that our Britishness stood up to the world over drugs in sport.

"People can have 2nd chances. But, for me, their 2nd chance should not be in an Olympics.

"Wrong actions need consequences otherwise why bother??!!"

Emms' partner in Athens, Nathan Robertson, was of the same opinion, calling the decision "disgraceful", and added: "Terrible day for British sport... so now our very own British rules and standards mean nothing!

"For those who believe people should get a 2nd chance, performance enhancing drugs help athletes forever not just when they are on them!"

Steve Backley, four-times European champion and former world javelin record holder, reacted by tweeting: "The British vest was devalued with this news.

"WADA: overly reasonable people policing the unreasonable; fairness offered to the grossly unfair. The world's gone soft."

Former European champion swimmer Steve Parry also added his voice to Twitter: "Sad day for Olympic sport.

"Cheats from any and all nations should not be allowed to compete in the Games.

"Well done @BOA for having a go!"

British winter Olympian Kristan Bromley tweeted: "I am totally dismayed at the Dwain Chambers ban lift!

"I remember watching an interview on BBC before he was caught when he lied to us all."

Even Piers Morgan, former Daily Mirror editor, had an opinion: "Oh great," he tweeted.

"Drugs cheats have had their lifetime bans overturned and can represent GB at the Olympics, how heart-warming."

-Mike Rowbottom