The London Games torch relay appeared on Monday in one of Britain’s most popular TV soap operas, EastEnders, which is set in a fictional square just a stone’s throw away from the Olympic Park in east London.
Millions of viewers tuned in to watch the show’s perennial underdog overcome a series of mishaps to carry the Olympic torch around Albert Square during a live shoot.
Earlier in the day, it had traveled with Patrick Stewart, the actor who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the sci-fi TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
It was also carried by tennis champion Venus Williams around Wimbledon’s famous grass courts.
“I don’t want it to catch my hair”, Williams, who wore long braids, was reported to have said on the BBC Web site as she accepted the flame from Britain’s No. 1 tennis player, Andy Murray.
An estimated 1 million people have watched the torch relay since its arrival in the capital on Friday, when it dramatically dropped into the historic Tower of London in the hands of a Royal Marine commando descending from a helicopter.
Today, it is scheduled to take in Buckingham Palace, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, and Downing Street, where the British prime minister lives.
Tomorrow, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to carry the torch in the final leg of its relay in London, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
“At the invitation of the London Olympic Organising Committee and the International Olympic Committee [IOC], he will carry the Olympic torch on the final leg of its journey in the United Kingdom in the presence of the president of the IOC,” Ban’s spokesman Eduardo del Buey said in New York.
Ban is also scheduled to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony tomorrow and take part in events to promote an Olympic truce between warring countries during the Games.
The torch is to light the cauldron in the main Olympic Stadium tomorrow to mark the official start of the 2012 Olympic Games.
“Nothing compared to this,” Stewart was quoted in London’s Evening Standard as saying. “I think the excitement is growing every day.”
An estimated 10 million people turned out to see the flame make its away around the country, visiting cities, towns and villages and scaling some of the highest peaks, and occasionally being carried across water and on horseback.
Celebrities, athletes, servicemen and people chosen for their community work have been among the almost 8,000 who have so far carried the flame.
Organizers will be hoping sport will soon take over the spotlight after recent headlines have been dominated by a private security botch-up, poor weather and transport confusion.