After years of build-up, miles of news and online copy, hundreds of hours of reports on radio and tv .... today we see, at LAST, the REAL start of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics season!
Today the Olympic flame arrives in the UK from Greece and and tomorrow the Torch containing that flame will start its epic 8,000 mile journey across the country, visiting thousands of communities and coming within 10 miles of 95% of people living in the UK, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey.
The Torch Relay will involve 8,000 people each of whom will get to 'bear' the torch for about 300 metres on it's long journey to the Olympic Stadium in London for the Games Opening Ceremony on Friday July 27th.
But there's another important relay which is running simultaneously with the Torch Relay.
More Than Gold the charity set up to help the churches get involved in all things Torch Relay, Olympics and Paralympics is running a 70-day PRAYER RELAY.
It's started today with a blessing ceremony in Cornwall, where tomorrow the Olympic Torch will set off from Lands End at the very southern end of mainland Britain. The Prayer Relay will mirror the journey of the Olympic Torch through over 1,000 communities and prayer batons will be exchanged at strategic points, passing from community to community.
The first handover is in Plymouth in Devon tomorrow (Saturday May 19th) which will be marked by a special prayer event. Hundreds of churches and individual Christians will be involved in the Prayer Relay, during which prayers will be daily said not only for the 2012 Games but also for the communities and people of the UK.
Among those involved with the prayer blessing exchange in their area are several Church of England Bishops including the Bishops of Durham, Newcastle and Whitby. Locations already confirmed include Berwick Bridge and Newcastle and Liverpool Cathedrals. It's a massively significant event and if you're in the UK and want to get involved look on the More Than Gold website. You can follow the prayer relay on Twitter @morethangolduk and you'll even be able to post your own prayers on Twitter using the hash tag #mtgprayer.
But that's not all - along the Torch Relay route many hundreds of churches and individuals will get involved in providing refreshments, facilities, friendship and fun for those who come out to see the Olympic Flame pass. A Praise Bus will also run ahead of the Torch Relay, providing a focus for arts and music and Christian outreach. This bus is the brainchild of a small Methodist church in Cornwall and it's also been blessed today as it set out on its journey across the UK and beyond.
How do I know so much about this? I'm privileged to be involved in helping their media team over the next months so stand by for more updates over this next few months.
If you're into prayer then this comment from Jane Holloway, chair of More Than Gold’s Prayer Team may inspire you: 'The Olympic Torch journey will pass through over a thousand communities. We would also like it to inspire a cascade of prayer and praise – with individuals and churches taking time to pray, alone and together, as it travels through their area.’