Olympics-Torch to take in London's power bases

LONDON, July 25 Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:55pm EDT

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LONDON, July 25 (Reuters) - The Olympic flame will visit Britain's royal, political and religious power bases on Thursday, while also visiting the thespian home of its greatest playwright.

More than two million people have cheered on the flame since its arrival in London last Friday at the tail-end of a 70-day nationwide tour.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the atmosphere had changed from "pre-curtain jitters to palpable excitement" in the past few days, and urged Londoners to get the bunting out for its final legs.

"With just over 48 hours to go I say dig out your flags, roll out the bunting and let's harness the incredible enthusiasm shown by the huge crowds who have cheered on the flame and power Team GB onto a locker-busting medal haul," he said in a statement.

The relay, designed to show off Britain's most iconic landmarks, will roll up the best of the city's heritage and cultural links into one spectacular day on Thursday.

In the morning, it travels to the steps of St Paul's, the 300-year-old domed cathedral designed by Christopher Wren, where Prince Charles married Princess Diana in 1981.

It then makes it way to the Globe, the theatrical base for Britain's most famous playwright William Shakespeare.

Later in the day, it will go to Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister, and then Buckingham Palace, the central London home of Britain's monarch.

Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, his wife Catherine, and younger brother Prince Harry, will give it the royal seal of approval.

The flame has been carried by about 8,000 people since it began its journey on May 19 at Land's End, the most southwesterly point of mainland England, and been watched by more than 10 million people.

It has climbed some of the country's highest peaks, as well as travelled by horseback, boat and balloon.

Torchbearers have included celebrities, athletes and people chosen for their good works.

The relay will begin its final legs on Friday at Hampton Court Palace, made famous by Henry VIII, and its winding hedge maze, before travelling down the River Thames on the royal barge Gloriana, used in Queen Elizabeth's celebrations last month to mark her 60 years' reign.

It will arrive at Tower Bridge at about midday and then reappear in the evening at the Olympic Park where it will light the cauldron during the opening ceremony, heralding the official start of the Games. (Reporting by Avril Ormsby. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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