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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 June, 2004, 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK
Olympic cauldron burns in London
Sir Steve Redgrave lights the Olympic cauldron
Redgrave hopes London will play host to the Games in 2012
Rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave has lit the Olympic cauldron after 140 people carried the torch through London to The Mall.

Sir Roger Bannister began the rain-soaked 31-mile trip from Wimbledon's Centre Court on Saturday morning.

Tim Henman carried it around the All England Club before passing it to Virginia Wade, who won the Wimbledon women's singles crown in 1977.

The torch is on a tour of the cities which have hosted the Olympic games.

Sir Steve said the experience of carrying the torch down The Mall was "unbelievable".

"It was six, 10 deep, all the way along - absolutely amazing."

He told BBC News 24 he hoped London would be given the chance to host the 2012 Olympics.

Sir Roger Bannister lights the Olympic torch on Centre Court
Sir Roger Bannister lit the Olympic torch on Centre Court
"What we've got on here today has been very, very special, and if we get the chance to do it again in 2012 this country will not know what's hit it - what we can show the world."

The Red Arrows flew overhead and the crowd cheered as the five times Olympic rowing champion ran up a ramp on to the stage where he lit the cauldron.

The Princess Royal was on stage to greet him, along with the stars of the concert.

She told the crowd: "The Olympic flame will burn for a short time in this city as it continues it journey back to Athens.

"Now that it is lit, let us ensure the Olympic flame burns in the hearts of our youth just as it burned in the hearts of all those it has inspired in the past."

Well-known torchbearers during Saturday's run included Ian Botham, Frank Bruno, Sir Richard Branson and Mary Peters.

A number were also chosen from the public to demonstrate Olympic spirit.

Dunstan Kornicki, 26, from Northfields in west London, was nominated by his sister as a "thank you" for the support he had given her when she was disabled with ME.

He said the run was "absolutely fantastic", adding: "I didn't trip, I didn't drop it and it didn't go out. I'd do it again tomorrow."

Some 70,000 people have attended a free concert to celebrate the flame's journey in The Mall.

Acts include pop, rock and soul performers such as Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, James Brown and Will Young.

Henman keeps a careful eye on the torch through the All England Club
Henman keeps a careful eye on the torch through the All England Club
Stewart said he was very proud to be British "and that's why I'm here".

Referring to the Olympic flame arriving in London and the huge concert, he said: "It's wonderful for London, it's wonderful for the people."

The Olympic flame arrived from Paris at 0800 BST - the first time it has been in London since the city hosted the 1948 Games.

Holding the flame aloft was 75-year-old Sylvia Disley - a British Olympic medal winner 56 years ago.

The bronze medal-winning sprinter was met by cheering schoolchildren as she brought the torch from France.

The torch is due to visit 33 cities on its first-ever global journey before heading back to Athens for the start of the Olympics on 13 August.

The flame began its trek on 25 March at Olympia and will return to Greece on 9 July.

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