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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

Preparations Underway For Journey Of Olympic Flame

Preparations are now underway to ensure the safe journey of the Olympic Flame from the ancient Greek site of Olympia to the Olympic Stadium in London, for the 2012 Olympic Games.

'Many people wonder how the Flame can travel all that way without mishap,' said the International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge. 'The fact is, we've learned a lot about risk management for the Flame since it was reintroduced to the modern games in Amsterdam in 1928. For example,' he continued, 'there was an attempt to switch the Flame on its route to Mexico City in 1968. The conspirators planned to replace the Greek Flame with a low cost Chinese version and sell the original to a collector. Fortunately, they were caught before the theft took place. Since then, the Flame has been tested for authenticity every morning and every evening during its journey.'

'Flames emit light at a number of wavelengths to form a characteristic spectrum,' explained Professor Brian Cox, whose comments must now appear, by law, in all popular scientific reports. 'Flames taken from the ancient Greek site of Olympia have a unique spectrum which can easily be checked with modern equipment. The spectrum contains five interconnected circles.'

There is also curiosity about what would happen if the Flame accidently became extinguished on its route.

'People often don't understand the physics and chemistry of flames,' continued Professor Cox, before anyone else could get a word in. 'They sometimes think that flames are just the light-emitting, gaseous component of whatever happens to be burning at the time. Of course, if that was the case, the Greek Flame would have no physical connection whatsoever with the flame that eventually arrived at the Olympic stadium, and so the whole exercise would be completely pointless.

'Flames are made of matter, like any other object we normally see on the Earth,' he clarified. 'They don't just cease to exist. When they cool below a certain temperature, they stop emitting light and become invisible, dark matter. Greek Olympic flames, for example, stop glowing at 234.433 degrees centigrade.

'Invisible, cold flames are all around us,' Professor Cox added. 'It's simply that we can't see them. Some date from shortly after the Big Bang. . . I think that's just amazing!' he shouted in conclusion, while being escorted away by mental health professionals.

The difficulties caused by the Olympic Flame cooling below its 'visibility horizon' were dramatically illustrated on its way to Moscow in 1980 when a gust of icy, Russian wind caused the Flame to vanish.

'The problem was compounded in 1980 because the Flame was not well attached to the torch,' explained Sebastian Coe, chairman of the Organising Committee for the 2012 Games, who also helped to search for the lost Flame in Moscow. 'The wind not only caused the Flame to become invisible, but we believe that it also detached the Flame from the torch. This made it impossible to relocate. In the end, runners had to return to Greece and start again. The flame for the 2012 Olympics will be held to the torch by a combination of Araldite, super glue and nails so that if it becomes invisible, we won't lose it.'

For such a prestigious icon, nothing can be left to chance. Contingencies have therefore been made for a catastrophic loss of the Flame. This might occur due to highjack by criminals, terrorists or Fathers for Justice.

'It's a classified secret,' remarked Boris Johnson, mayor of London, to BBC News, 'that a reserve flame is lit at the Greek site of Olympia in addition to the one to be carried to the Olympic Stadium. It is then cooled, liquefied and bottled, and is then stored at a hidden location for use in the event of a total loss of the Primary Flame. If the worst comes to the worst,' he continued, 'I just go to the saddle bag of my bike and - hey presto!'

'Shit!' exclaimed the mayor as the significance of his words dawned upon him. 'I suppose if all else fails, we could burn Greek government bonds. They came from roughly the same place and they're no bloody use for anything else.'

The final question is, of course, what will happen to the Flame after the Olympics?

'We intend that it will benefit the people of London in the same way as the Olympic building programme,' confirmed Lord Coe. 'It was originally planned to use the Flame to keep the homeless warm on London's streets. However,' he concluded, 'after discussion with our sponsors, it will now be used to heat the offices of senior executives in the City.'