- Title: VARIOUS FILE: Former rower Steve Redgrave favourite to light the Olympic flame
- Date: 18th July 2012
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (RECENT JULY 10, 2012) (REUTERS) DAME KELLY HOLMES BEING INTERVIEWED AT FILM PREMIER
- Embargoed: 2nd August 2012 13:00
- Location: Australia, Usa, China, United Kingdom
- Country: USA
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA2IX7RTL6DBB9TCL88UD6WHYZT
- Story Text: Guessing the identity of the person who runs the final stretch with the Olympic torch and lights the cauldron is always one of the highlights of the Games opening extravaganza.
With the London Olympics fast approaching, Britons are happily combining two of their favourite pastimes: sports and betting - no matter how ludicrous some of the bets.
With just over a week to go, bookmakers are closing their books on the most popular bet so far - who will light the flame, the symbol of the Games, at the opening ceremony on July 27.
At the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali lit the cauldron in an emotional show as he struggled with Parkinson's disease.
In 2000, Cathy Freeman ignited the Sydney Olympic flame in a symbol of reconciliation between Aboriginal Australians and the European settlers. She went on to win the host's only track gold in the 400 metres.
China's former champion gymnast Li Ning was awarded that honour in Beijing in 2008.
This time around, the bookmakers agree the clear favourite for that coveted task, with odds of 1/3, is 50-year-old Steve Redgrave, Britain's most successful Olympian who won rowing gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000.
Redgrave's main rivals appear to be Daley Thompson and Roger Bannister.
Britain's best all-round athlete, Thomson won the Olympic decathlon title in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984.
Bannister, 83, made history in 1954 as the first man to run the four-minute mile, a barrier many had thought physically impossible.
He retired from athletics later that year to pursue a distinguished career as a neurologist.
Kelly Holmes who won two gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, sailor Ben Ainslie, looking to make if four golds in four Games in 2012, and Chris Hoy, triple cycling gold medallist in Beijing, are also in the frame.
Teenage diving sensation Tom Daley is a serious contender at 16/1, the same odds as Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organising committee. Coe won the Olympic 1500 metres in '80 and '84.
As an international icon and also a local boy, David Beckham's involvement with the bid process had much to do with London winning the Games.
Beckham, at 25/1, says he thinks the honour should go to an Olympian, something he cannot now aspire to, having failed to make Britain's football squad, But he is certainly expected to feature in the opening ceremony.
Odds of 16/1 on Bradley Wiggins might well attract a lot of interest. His bid to become the first British winner of the Tour de France could - with perfect timing - be realised just five days before the flame is lit.
Wiggins Olympic credentials are impeccable with six track cycling medals, including three golds.
Punters have also shown interest in putting their money on Prince William, and, incredibly, the Queen, both at 50-1.
But, at 25/1, the most likely blue blood to light the flame is the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips. A member of the British 2012 Olympic equestrian team, Phillips was individual eventing world champion from 2006 to 2010. She follows in the footsteps of her mother, Princess Anne, and father, Mark Phillips - both equestrian Olympians from the 1970s.
Bookmakers William Hill have even money on it raining on the night of the opening ceremony. They've also taken some bets on whether London Mayor Boris Johnson would have a mishap and set his notoriously wild hair on fire with the Olympic torch.
But spokesman Rupert Adams said the weirdest bet yet was a modest wager that a UFO would appear above the Olympic Stadium on the night of the opening ceremony. The odds? A paltry payout of 1000-1.
Odds from William Hill: 1/3 Steve Redgrave 6/4 Daley Thompson 5/1 Roger Bannister 6/1 Kelly Holmes 10/1 Ben Ainslie, Chris Hoy 16/1 Seb Coe, Bradley Wiggins, Tom Daley 25/1 David Beckham, Zara Phillips 50/1 Prince William, 50/1 The Queen
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