Dress rehearsal for Olympic torch relay
LONDON - Make way for the torch. The flame will come later.
Olympic officials conducted a test run Friday of one part of the Olympic torch relay - a full dress rehearsal to test timings, security issues and traffic patterns.
"This really is the beginning of the games," said Paul Deighton, the chief executive of the organizing committee. "We want to get this right."
Some 122 volunteers were running with the Olympic torch Friday, but it wasn't lit. The flame comes when the actual torch relay starts from Land's End - the westernmost tip of England - next month.
The flame will arrive from Greece on May 18 and kick off an 8,000-mile (12,875-kilometer) relay across the UK the following day. The flame will also make stops in Ireland and involve 8,000 torchbearers.
Police fear that individuals seeking attention could try to disrupt the 70-day relay that ends July 27 with the opening ceremony at London's Olympic Stadium.
Protest fears were heightened earlier this month when the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities was marred by an intruder protesting against elitism and privilege. The demonstrator jumped into the Thames River, bringing both boats to a standstill just over halfway through the 4 1/4-mile (6.8-kilometer) race. He narrowly avoided being struck by oars from both crews.
Organizers urged such lone wolf demonstrators to take their causes elsewhere, particularly since the torchbearers will not, by and large, be national figures. Most were chosen because of their local good works.
"The torch is all about the local communities," Deighton said. "It's about ordinary people. I think it would be absolutely terrible to ruin the moment for these people."
The torchbearers for the actual relay will include Britain's oldest full-time firefighter and a soldier who lost three limbs in Afghanistan.