70-day torch relay for 2012 London Olympics

LONDON (AP) — The Olympic flame will make a 70-day journey across Britain ahead of the 2012 London Games, with more than 8,000 people taking part in a youth-dominated torch relay.

The flame will arrive in Britain from Greece on May 18, 2012, and the relay route will take the torch to within an hour's distance of 95 percent of the population, organizers said Wednesday.

Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson said the torch relay will rally people behind the games.

"It has enormous power to inspire the country," he said.

Robertson said at least 50 percent of the spots in the relay will go to people under the age of 24. Organizers are working on a system for selecting the torch bearers, which will include a nomination process.

Sebastian Coe, head of the London organizing committee, said the aim is to find torch bearers who "inspire young people."

After the nationwide relay, the flame will arrive in London the weekend before the cauldron is lit at the opening ceremony on July 27, 2012. Details of the relay route will be announced next year.

After the international torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was interrupted by protests by human rights activists in London, Paris, San Francisco and other sites, officials decided to keep future relays within the host nations, apart from the lighting in Greece.

Security around the torch will be easier to control because it is a national event, Robertson said.

"I cannot guarantee that on the day there will be no pressure groups at all who will try to interrupt events, but I hope they will not ruin an opportunity for people," Robertson said.

The torch relay will be sponsored by Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung.

Robertson and Coe reiterated that Olympic preparations will not be threatened by the $39 million in spending cuts announced Monday by Britain's new coalition government.

The cut represents only 2 percent of the overall budget of the Olympic Delivery Authority, the body responsible for building the venues for the games.

"We have to deliver on projects that were promised and we'll make savings that don't (affect) the final Olympic Games," Robertson said.