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London Counts Down to Olympic Kick Off

  • Selah Hennessy

The royal barge Gloriana carries the Olympic flame along the river Thames, on the final day of the Torch Relay, London, July 27, 2012.
LONDON — In Britain, the long wait has finally come to an end: the 2012 London Games are ready to begin. On Friday the Olympic Flame made the final lap of its 70-day journey across Britain and excitement is in the air.

It’s been seven long years in the making but on Friday the London 2012 Olympic Games finally start.

The Olympic flame, which has been shuttled around Britain since May, made its final lap Friday, gliding along the River Thames by royal barge.

The torch has crossed nearly 13,000 kilometers and Olympic organizers say around 10 million people turned out to see the flame as it passed through their neighborhood.

VOA tracked it down in southwest London where British Olympic historian Philip Barker was torch bearer.

“To actually have the chance to help in the journey of that torch, passing it from hand to hand, was truly emotional, with all the crowds coming out and everybody shouting your name and giving you encouragement and passing it to somebody you’ve never met and probably will never meet again, yet for that single moment you have some kind of connection with someone else," he said. "It’s really special.”

Speaking Friday, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain is looking forward to the next few weeks.

"It's very exciting," said Cameron. "I think there's a huge sense of excitement and anticipation, because Britain is ready to welcome the greatest show on earth, and it's going to be an incredible few weeks for our country. I think it's a great opportunity to show the world the best of Britain, a country that's got an incredibly rich past but actually a very exciting and vibrant future.”

During a press conference on Friday, Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, expressed confidence in the games. He said the preparations had been “excellent”.

In the weeks leading up to the Games a few glitches emerged, including news that the private security firm hired to secure the games was short-staffed.

But most of the problems appear to have been smoothed over: Thousands of soldiers were called in at the last minute to fill the security gaps; a planned strike by border agency staff at Heathrow airport was called off; and, perhaps most importantly, a very rainy London summer appeared to dry up.

People on London’s streets told VOA they were getting excited. Dom Van Damme says he's changed his mind recently.

“Now feeling quite excited about it," he said. "Up to a few days ago we were quite skeptical about the whole thing but now with the weather and the number of people in London, it's a fantastic atmosphere."

Simon Webster says the whole world has come to London.

"Today is a very important day. It's the opening of the Games," he said. "So close to us it's really the moment for everybody who loves sports to come to the Games and enjoy the Games. It's an international event. All of the world is here and everybody should be here."

Neisha says the Games have brought more than just sports to London.

"I'm not going to be able to watch them actually," said Neisha. "I haven't bought a ticket but I like the atmosphere, all the different cultural events that are going on."

And with weeks of Games ahead and 17,000 athletes pouring into London, the excitement is just beginning.