Olympics-London 2012 torch relay to feature in soap opera

LONDON Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:00pm EST

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LONDON Nov 15 (Reuters) - The Olympic flame will pay a visit to Britain's most famous launderette and pub next year after London 2012 organisers announced that the torch relay route would pass through the streets of one of the country's most-watched soap operas.

Better-known for family feuds, dodgy business deals, extra-marital affairs and occasional murders, the fictional London borough of Walford, the focal point for the hugely successful BBC drama EastEnders, will be one of the stop-off points for the symbolic Olympic flame next July.

Later on Tuesday, viewers of the show will watch as characters Fat Boy and Billy Mitchell are nominated as torchbearers and in an episode to be screened on July 23 next year the latter will carry the torch through Albert Square -- arguably the most famous "neighbourhood" in Britain.

The torch's appearance on the show backs up London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe's pledge to make the relay as "creative as possible".

While the episode will be filmed in advance, organisers say that several minutes of the Olympic procession will be beamed live from the show's set as part of the torch relay that will travel the length and breadth of the country.

"While this may be a fictional one-off for Billy Mitchell, it's a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and I'm thrilled that Walford and Albert Square will be part of this amazing event," Perry Fenwick, the actor who plays Billy Mitchell, said in a statement from the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG).

The 70-day torch relay will travel some 12,800 kms around Britain, taking in 1,018 villages and the 1,085-metre summit of Snowdon, before culminating with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron on July 27. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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