Olympic champions Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are
ready for more Olympic greatness while the torch relay got a royal
blessing at Buckingham Palace on the eve of Friday's opening of the
Enthusiasm in the host city almost reached a boiling point Thursday as the torch was greeted at Buckingham Palace by Prince William, his wife Catherine, and Prince Harry who, as Olympic ambassadors, turned out in Team GB clothing.
Like no other symbol, the Olympic torch has brought communities together to convey the "infectious spirit of the Olympic Games," Prime Minister David Cameron said.
The flame was carried past London landmarks by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, among others. It stopped off at Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - in a silent nod to Britain's historic centres of power and cultural heritage.
Some 3 million onlookers lined the relay route in London alone. More than a billion people are expected to tune in to what promises to be a fabulous three-hour opening ceremony extravaganza Friday.
Among the flag bearers will be the Jamaican sprinter Bolt, who redefined the sprint at the 2008 Games with gold medal efforts and world record times in the 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m.
"To carry the flag is a great honour. I give anything for my country," Bolt said Thursday.
Bolt suffered recent defeats against his dangerous compatriot Yohan Blake, and he has been handicapped by a hamstring injury. But he is nevertheless raring to go in his quest for further greatness.
"I had slight problems but nothing too serious," said Bolt. "I am ready to go ... I have been training great over the past two-and-a-half weeks so everything is coming together."
Swimmer Phelps won an unprecedented eight golds in 2008 for a record overall tally of 14 Olympic titles, and is now fully relaxed ahead of what will be his last Games. He too has a fierce opponent in his own camp in Ryan Lochte.
"Then (2008) I wanted to conquer everything, this time I am having much more fun and I am relaxed ... I am very happy with my career and what I have done and we will see what happens over the last week of my career," Phelps said Thursday.
Elsewhere, Wimbledon champion Roger Federer got a kind draw in his return to the All England Club for Olympic tennis, while Novak Djokovic, British hope Andy Murray and the dangerous Czech Tomas Berdych are crammed in the other half of the draw.
British Olympic supremo Colin Moynihan said Team UK will do its best to fulfil sky-high expectations from the host nation
"What I can tell you is that they've never been better prepared. I think we can win more medals in more sports than ever before. But we are under no illusion that it is going to be very, very tough," Moynihan said.
Dignitaries were arriving in large numbers in London. Among them was US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was given a warm welcome by Cameron despite critical remarks about security concerns at the Games.
"It's hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting," Romney told NBC News.
Cameron responded by saying, "It remains our absolute priority to keep people safe. All contingency plans are in place, backed by the finest armed forces in the world."
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