LONDON – David Beckham just wants two things: the flame to burn right and a spot on Britain's Olympic team.
The former England national team captain and current star for the Los Angeles Galaxy will light a cauldron at a ceremony Friday when the flame arrives in southwestern England from Greece on the eve of a 70-day torch relay for the 2012 London Olympics.
"I hope it lights," he said with a chuckle.
Beckham, Princess Anne, London organizing chairman Sebastian Coe are escorting the flame, a symbol of peace and unity that harkens back to the origins of the games in ancient Greece. The 37-year-old star is excited about the chance to welcome the world to his "hood."
Beckham been involved in the London Games since the organizing committee launched its successful bid in 2005. His star power -- the kind that sends children into shrieks of hysteria and diplomats' wives in Athens into paparazzi -- is part of the reason that the International Olympic committee took notice of the London bid over Paris, the favorite.
While Beckham the celebrity isn't shirking the attention the Olympic torch brings, Beckham the athlete really, really wants to take part on the field.
"I've never played in an Olympic Games," he said. "Obviously, I'd love to."
"I've always made it clear that I love representing my country," he added. "I've done that quite a few times."
He's done that 115 times, to be precise, with the England team.
Beckham has been included in coach Stuart Pearce's 80-man shortlist that will be whittled down to 18 players in the coming weeks to form Britain's first Olympic soccer squad since 1960. If chosen, he would be one of the three players over age 23 allowed in each Olympic squad.
Many a camera will be turned to the photogenic Beckham when the flame arrives at a Royal Navy air station in Cornwall on Friday night. The flame, traveling on the gold-painted British Airways Flight 2012, will be carried off by Princess Anne, the head of the British Olympic Committee and herself a former Olympian. Beckham then will carry it to the cauldron, assuming it won't be too windy.
No matter what, there will be a backup. On the plane itself, there are four flames just in case, all guarded by security.
All this might sound like a lot of attention for a bit of a fire, but London's Olympic organizers are hoping that the flame's arrival can generate excitement about the Games.
The torch will be carried all over the British Isles by 8,000 chosen volunteers, mostly local heroes. Its 8,000-mile journey will linger on the iconic sites -- Big Ben, Stonehenge, the white cliffs of Dover -- and speed past less appealing areas. It ends up July 27 at Olympic Stadium in London.
Beckham is one of the bookies' favorites to open the Olympics by lighting the cauldron in London -- and he told reporters while visiting an Athens school that he'd love the job. Other favorites include miler Roger Bannister, rower Steve Redgrave, Coe, Queen Elizabeth II or other members of Britain's royal family.
But no word on that -- Coe says the decision hasn't even been discussed yet. For the moment, Beckham's just thrilled to light the cauldron at the navy base at Culdrose in Cornwall.
"Being here today just makes it all that real," he said in Athens. "Being handed the torch is the start of the games."