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Sunday, July 22, 2012

On top of the world: Torchbearer Amelia, 17, holds the Olympic torch aloft on the London Eye as Mayor Johnson promises a 'gigantic schmoozathon'

-Countdown begins to the opening ceremony of the Games in Stratford on Friday
-'The height was quite scary but it was amazing and a once in a lifetime opportunity,' says Amelia
-Former world champion heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis to carry Olympic flame

By Craig Mackenzie

The final countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games began today with amazing images of the capital as torchbearer Amelia Hempleman-Adams carried the flame on the London Eye.

The 17-year-old - the youngest person to ski to the South Pole - stood smiling in a specially-built cage on top of one of the capsules hundreds of feet above ground as she held the torch aloft.

She was taking part in the latest leg of the UK torch relay with five days to go before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London on Friday for the opening Games ceremony.

Flaming fun: Skier Amelia Hempleman-Adams, at 17 the youngest person to ski to the South Pole, gets a bird's eye view of London this morning

Breathtaking: brave torch bearer Amelia smiles for the camera as she stands on top of a capsule on the London Eye this morning

Flaming wonder: Amelia holds the flame aloft as she towers over the London skyline with the Houses of Parliament behind her

Time of her life: Amelia passes Big Ben as she descends with the torch from the London Eye

As the torch toured the boroughs of Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham and Havering and Bexley, London mayor Boris Johnson promised a 'gigantic schmoozathon' that would shine a spotlight on British.business.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: 'I think possibly what we are going through at the moment as a nation, as a city, is that necessary pre-curtain up moment of psychological self-depression before the excitement begins on Friday.

'It is only natural that people should be tense, that they should be expectant and there are loads of things we need to get right.'

Mr Johnson claimed that International Olympics Committee president Jacques Rogge believes London has met the standards set by other hosts. He said: 'If you look at what Jacques Rogge had to say - he's been in London for a few days - he thinks that our city is as well prepared as any city in the history of the Games.'

Riding high: Amelia, looking totally at ease, is clearly not scared of heights as she descends on the London Eye capsule which passes Big Ben

Sky's the limit: The tiny figure of Amelia can be seen atop the London Eye in the blue morning sky over the capital with Big Ben to the right

Eyeful: A plane jets into Heathrow this morning with the airline's passengers having a unique opportunity to see Amelia carrying the Olympic torch

Countdown to the Games: Amelia stands in her specially-built cage to pose with the Olympic torch as part of the relay around London

Mr Johnson dismissed the threat of strike action by UK Border Agency staff, claiming most workers would want to 'get behind' the Games by turning up to work.

He said: 'I don't think that whatever they do it will disrupt the Olympics or our preparations or disrupt our ability to get people through and in on time to their venues, get the athletes, the Olympics hierarchs, through to where they need to go.

'I do think if you look at the numbers who voted it is a very, very badly supported strike. I don't think people will want to let down the Olympics.'

Amelia, who carried out her record-breaking expedition with her father David, a renowned adventurer, last December, described holding the torch above the capital as a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity.

The stunt was suggested to the teenager, who told the BBC: 'I decided to see what I'd have to do, thought about it and decided to do it.

It was amazing to look out and see the whole of London.'

Colourful night: : St Paul's Cathedral dominates the skyline as the Millenium Bridge is lit up to celebrate the Olympics in London

Lit up: London's iconic Tower Bridge dazzles with multi-colours last night as part of the Olympic celebrations

Colourful: London Bridge last night gets a makeover in orange and blue

Amelia, who has tickets for the athletics and diving events, added: 'The height was quite scary but you know you're safe so it's not too bad. It was a once in a lifetime experience, especially as the Olympics are in London. It makes it more special.'

Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, the London-born boxer who won Olympic gold for Canada in Seoul in 1988, will be the last torchbearer today.

The first leg started at Redbridge Cycling Centre with Luke Benjafield, 20, from South Woodford, carrying the flame through a corridor of cyclists from local clubs.

He was nominated for the role due to his dedication to the Air Training Corps 241 Squadron, where he has inspired and motivated many cadets to succeed in their flight training.

Celebrity torchbearers: Singers Dizzee Rascal and Paloma Faith with footballer Fabrice Muamba carry the Olympic flame through the streets of east London

It was then taken by boat across Fairlop Lake by sailors from the London Youth Games. Britain's Got Talent-winning dance troupe Diversity will carry the flame in Barking and Dagenham.

Next stop is Havering where Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang will take the flame on to a stage outside the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch.

Olympic rower Ben Hunt-Davies, who won gold in Sydney in 2000, will also be a torchbearer. A London Fire Brigade fireboat will transport the torch across the River Thames.

It will then be taken to Danson Park in Bexley where pop duo Rizzle Kicks and dance act Twist And Pulse will perform in the evening's celebrations.

Last night, the Millenium Bridge, Tower Bridge and London Bridge were lit up in blue orange and pink as part of the cultural celebrations for the 2012 Olympics.

Yesterday celebrities carried the torch through the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney. They includes Dizzee Rascal, Paloma Faith and footballer Fabrice Muamba who is recovering from an on-pitch heart attack while playing for Bolton.



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