Kevin McCallum Masthead
May 11 2012 at 08:45

On Sky News yesterday morning, presenter Eammon Holmes was told that Lord Seb Coe, head of the London Olympics, would be bringing the Olympic flame back to London on board a plane.

“I thought you weren’t allowed to take lighters on planes,” he smiled. You aren’t, Eammon. Nor are you allowed to take sharp objects and the London torch, which has already been christened the “cheese grater” by the Poms, looks like it could do a nasty injury to piece of cheddar. You also cannot take more than 100mm of fluid on board, and the torch is going to need a lot of juice to keep it going, particularly after the designer admitted last year they had failed in their attempts to make it as green and energy efficient as possible. Instead of elephant grass fuel the London torch will run on a mixture of butane and propane gas, which means it is fuelled by both the stuff you light your fags with and the stuff you cook with.

For £199 (just over two grand) those taking part in the relay can purchase the torch they run with and take them home. There has been some controversy over this as the torch costs £495 to make, and some of the relay participants think they should have it for free. What are the odds that then 8 000 people who will take part in the torch relay (which is 8 000km long for a torch with exactly 8 000 holes in it), will take it home and when they first get three sheets to the wind, use it as a ciggy lighter?

A plumber Pierre Bouchard used his cigarette lighter to keep the flame burning at the 1976 Games in Montreal. A cloud burst put the Olympic flame out. What with it being a day off, there was no one in the stadium save for Bouchard and a few other workers. In an attempt to save Canada’s pride, Bouchard sprinted up the steps and flicked his Bic. He lit some pieces of newspaper and used them to get it going again. Olympic officials were horrified and put out the makeshift flame, re-igniting from back-up torches.

The torch won the top prize in “Design of the Year 2012” last month, reported Bloomberg, beating off, er, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, an opera house in China, and Vivienne Westwood handbags made in Kenya.

Shortly before the flame was lit at the Athens Olympics, a friend, Emily van de Pol, SMSed from London to ask how they were going to “fire up that huge joint”. The 2004 Olympic Flame did indeed look like a well-rolled three-blader. The Greeks solved the problem by flipping it over, to the cauldron, skyfing up, before flicking it upwards again. From what I remember of those Olympics, Greeks walked around with happy, beatific smiles all the time. When they came down, they realised they had to pay for the drug of the Olympics. They still are.


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