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Beckham to help bring Olympic flame to Britain
ATHENS (Reuters) - David Beckham will help bring the Olympic flame back to Britain on a golden plane on Friday after he takes part in a formal handover ceremony in Athens, London 2012 organizers said.
The former England soccer captain, a London 2012 'ambassador' who was on the bid team in 2005 and is hoping to play in a united British side at the Games, will team up with the official delegation and return with them on British Airways 'Flight 2012'.
Britain's Princess Anne, a member of the International Olympic Committee, LOCOG Chairman Seb Coe, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Hugh Robertson, minister for Sport and the Olympics, arrived in Athens on Wednesday on "The Firefly' - a golden liveried Airbus 319.
The flame is due to be handed over to London by the president of the Greek Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos, at the Panathenaic Stadium which hosted the first modern Games in 1896, at the end of a Greek torch relay.
The visiting delegation, without Beckham, attended a torch ceremony at the Parthenon in Athens on Wednesday evening where a cauldron was lit under a cloudless blue sky for the flame to 'rest' overnight.
An elderly male runner, in white vest and clutching the golden torch aloft, climbed the stairs through an olive grove to the Temple Of Hera for the lighting.
The flame will arrive in Britain at Culdrose naval base in Cornwall on the south-west tip of England for a welcome ceremony before triple Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Ben Ainslie starts the relay in Britain from Land's End on Saturday.
Beckham, now 37 and playing for LA Galaxy in the United States, will be joined in Athens by five young Britons invited by organizers LOCOG and the British Council in recognition of their commitment to sport and promoting Olympic values.
They will also play a role in the handover ceremony.
"We wanted to involve young people from across the UK in bringing home the Olympic Flame," said Coe in a statement.
"Their stories of personal achievement and contribution to sport echo the 8,000 inspiring torchbearer stories that will be shared from this weekend and over the next 10 weeks in the build up to the start of the Games."
The Games opening ceremony at the new Olympic Stadium in east London, not far from Beckham's boyhood home, will be on the evening of July 27.
The flame was lit by the sun's rays at the site of the ancient Games at Olympia last week and has been travelling around Greece since then.
The 70-day British leg of the relay will use 8,000 torchbearers and travel 12,800km around the country, taking in 1,018 communities.
"Bringing the Olympic flame back from its ancient home in Greece is a hugely symbolic moment which will ignite people's hopes and aspirations for what will be a summer like no other," said London Mayor Johnson before heading to Athens.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ken Ferris)
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