London Olympics torch carriers try to cash in on role

Story highlights

  • Adverts for what are claimed to be genuine Olympic torches have appeared on eBay
  • One "soot-marked torch" sold for £153,000 ($241,000)
  • Anyone considering a bid is urged to check whether the seller has run on the relay
  • The flame will be carried 8,000 miles across the UK by 8,000 runners

It's not just the athletes going for gold in the 2012 London Olympics -- it appears that some of the torch bearers may be trying to cash in on the role of carrying the flame.

In the few days since the Olympic flame arrived in Britain several adverts for what are claimed to be genuine Olympic torches have appeared on the online auction site eBay, some with eye-watering price tags.

Six torches have sold for more than £100,000 ($158,000) on eBay, although it's not known whether money actually changed hands at the end of the auction.

One bidder asks if a torch is authentic, and the seller, who lives in Burnham-on-Sea, England, responds: "Running at 1638 on Monday. It will be dispatched within my handling time. Absolutely authentic, I wouldn't risk my eBay rating on selling a fake."

After a frenzy of up to 163 bids, the "soot-marked torch" sold for £153,000 ($241,000).

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London Olympics organizers say they cannot be used again as the burner system is disabled after each runner finishes a section.

Some sellers say they will donate a percentage of the sale price to charity, with one offering to give 10% to Save the Children.

Each of the torches used in the 70-day relay up to the opening ceremony on 27 July has been offered in advance to the runner at a discounted price of just under £199 ($314)... or £215 ($339) if they bought it on the day. Organizers say the money helps to cover the production costs of £594 ($937) for each of the perforated, aluminum alloy torches.

A spokeswoman for the 2012 games said: "The torches are the torch bearers' to do what they want with them -- we hope they find a good home."

London Olympic Games organizers are not responsible for the distinctive torches once the runners take ownership, but the spokeswoman urged potential online bidders to be cautious. She advised anyone considering making a bid to check the seller's identity and then visit the official London 2012 Olympics website which carries a full list of torch bearers.

Large crowds have been turning out each day to watch the procession of the Olympic flame through the UK and some have gained a glimpse of a celebrity -- English soccer star and Los Angeles Galaxy player, David Beckham, lit the first torch on its arrival in the UK. And American rapper and Black Eyed Peas star Will.i.am took a turn carrying the flame on Monday.

Organizers say there will be a series of high-profile bearers throughout the relay but are staying tight-lipped about exactly who they are.

Apart from celebrities and athletes, most of the runners were chosen in recognition for a contribution to their community or personal achievement and followed a nomination process.

The journey began when the flame was lit from the sun's rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece. The flame will feature at the opening ceremony when the final torch bearer lights the cauldron inside London's Olympic Stadium.

In the interim, it will be carried 8,000 miles across the UK by 8,000 runners and using a route that organizers say will be within 10 miles of 95% of the population.

Five days into the relay, crowds are still turning out in force across the south west of England.

"I think it's fantastic there's been so much enthusiasm running through each community," said the London Olympics spokeswoman. "I think it's a very British thing to do -- to get behind something in your community."

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