On Saturday, the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay began its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey, starting at Land’s End, at the southwest tip of England (and will end at the 2012 Olympic Games in London). The Olympic Torch Relay is a tradition that puts the iconic flame into the hands of a diverse group of people — a symbol of the games’ universal nature.
On hand for the ceremony was soccer star (and the Hollywood friendly) David Beckham, who greeted the torch as it arrived from Greece to the UK and lit the flame that would be carried to its athletic destination in July. Unlike past years, the torch will not be circling the globe — London choosing to highlight the inspirational people of its country rather than famous faces and sports stars from across the land. While the event won’t be as star-studded as in past years, there are sure to be a few names who take over the heavy-lifting as the torch crosses the European landscape before landing at its final resting place. In recent years, enlisting celebrities to carry the torch has been an equal part of the tradition. Here are a few of the familiar names who have marched a leg of the race on the way to the Olympics.
Those enlisted for the 2004 Athens Olympcis include Ryan Seacrest, Sean Combs, Donald Trump and Nia Vardalos (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding). 2002’s Salt Lake City event packed in even more Hollywood olympians: Diane Sawyer, Chris O’Donnell, Lance Bass, Larry King, Martin Sheen and the late Christopher Reeve.
The 2012 Torch Relay is aiming for a different kind of celebrity. Many of the bearers are veterans, handicapped or notable athletes. Beckham is a recognizable name, but the most awe-inspiring participant this year may be Diana Gould, who competed in the 1912 Olympics. When she carries the torch, Gould will be 100 years old. Donald Trump may have Celebrity Apprentice, but Diana Gould has longevity.