NEW YORK – Crowds cheered across New York's five boroughs Saturday as the Olympic torch (search) made a 34-mile journey through the city, which was recently named as one of five finalists to host the 2012 Summer Games.
Gold-medal gymnast Nadia Comaneci (search) carried the Olympic torch along the last leg, arriving in Times Square shortly before midnight.
"Outsized crowds and overflowing hearts — that's what New York is all about," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the relay's conclusion.
Comaneci glided across the square suspended from a cable and was lowered onto a platform where she lit the flame.
Gold-medal-winning long jumper Bob Beamon (search) began the torch's tour, following a ceremony at a park in Queens earlier Saturday. Beamon held the Olympic flame aloft as hundreds of spectators in the nation's most heavily Greek-American neighborhood cheered wildly, waving Greek flags.
"It's fitting that the New York City leg of the torch relay kicks off from Queens — our most diverse borough in the most diverse city in the world," said Bloomberg, who was joined by actress Melina Kanakaredes.
New York is the 14th city on the torch's five-continent world tour, which began March 25 when it was lit at the temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece.
Beamon was followed by more than 120 torchbearers along a route highlighted by a ferry ride past New York's original flame, the Statue of Liberty.
"It feels great," said Brooklyn community activist Bryan Pu-Folkes, clutching the torch aboard a ferry cruising through New York Harbor. "It's an honor to be part of this human chain that's going around the world."
To the slight embarrassment of its chaperones, the torch went out a couple of times in Pu-Folkes' hands. But it was quickly re-lit from a nearby lamp that maintains the chain of fire from Olympia, Greece.
Throngs of fans cheered and ran along sidewalks as the flame was passed from carrier to carrier. In Harlem, New York Knicks center Dikembe Mutombo carried the torch past the brownstones and apartment buildings lining Saint Nicholas Avenue.
"This is such a unique event," said Mutombo, high-fiving a group of children. "It happens only once in a lifetime and I'm glad I was able to participate."
The torch also was carried past Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and through Central Park on its way to the United Nations, where Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) received the torch and lit a cauldron to keep the flame alive. Annan appealed for a halt to all fighting during the summer games.
Rapper-actor Sean "P. Diddy" Combs (search) missed his scheduled run when he got stuck in traffic. He caught up with the torch and ran one-fifth of a mile along Broadway in Queens before handing the flame off to Nancy Olson, who carried it from her wheelchair.
Among other scheduled torch carriers were mogul Donald Trump (search); Lauren Manning (search), a senior vice president of Cantor Fitzgerald who survived the Sept. 11 attacks; and wheelchair-bound photorealist painter Chuck Close.
Wobbling on a broken foot, NBC anchor Lester Holt carried the torch a short distance in Rockefeller Center.
"It's a real killer," Holt said. "But if I had to carry this in my teeth I was going to figure out a way."
From New York, the torch will head to Montreal before crossing the Atlantic and ending its nearly 50,000-mile trip for the Aug. 13 opening of the Summer Games in Athens, site of the first Olympics in 776 B.C.