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Flame makes dramatic arrival in London

LONDON, United Kingdom - The Olympic flame makes a dramatic arrival in London on Friday, July 21, to tour the capital before it plays a starring role in the opening ceremony in one week's time.

A Royal Marine commando will abseil from a helicopter with the flame before it spends the night safely housed in the Tower of London, where Queen Elizabeth II keeps her ceremonial jewels.

The 8,000-mile (12,800-kilometre) relay culminates in the capital after snaking around Britain and visiting the Republic of Ireland.

Before it reached the capital, police arrested a 17-year-old man after he tried to grab the torch from a female torchbearer while it passed through Gravesend, a town southeast of London.

The teenager sprinted out of the crowd toward the torchbearer and was grabbed by the security officers accompanying the torch.

The torch was to stop in Guildford just south of London before being flown by helicopter into London. It will begin its tour of the capital in Greenwich on Saturday.

In another step closer to next Friday's opening ceremony, the Olympic flag was hoisted above the Downing Street residence of Prime Minister David Cameron.

Preparations for the Games have been dogged by concerns over security after a firm supplying private guards for venues said it could not supply all of the 10,000 it had promised.

But chief organiser Sebastian Coe insisted security would not be compromised, as the government had drafted in 3,500 extra troops to cover the shortfall by security giant G4S, with another 1,200 on standby.

"This is not an issue that has remotely compromised security. This was actually about the supply and the mix, it's never been about the numbers," Coe said.

Coe however got into a testy exchange with an interviewer about criticisms of the organisers' approach to protecting sponsors' rights.

Asked by a BBC radio presenter if he would be able to wear a Pepsi T-shirt to an Olympic event, Coe replied: "No, you probably wouldn't be walking in with a Pepsi T-shirt because Coca-Cola are our sponsors and they have put millions of pounds into this project but also millions of pounds into grassroots sport.

"It is important to protect those sponsors."

Asked whether he could wear Nike trainers, since Adidas is an official sponsor, Coe added: "Let's put some reality in this. You probably would be able to walk through with Nike trainers. Does that satisfy you?"

Amid gripes about the Olympic security and transport, London Mayor Boris Johnson hit out at critics of the Olympics, saying Britain was about to stage the greatest show on Earth and doom-mongers should "put a sock in it".

"Oh come off it, everybody -- enough whimpering," Johnson wrote in The Sun newspaper.

"Cut out the whingeing. And as for you whingers, put a sock in it -- fast."

As the preparations for the Games intensified, the competitors were limbering up.

The US basketball 'Dream Team' spearheaded by superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James underlined their status as favourites for gold when they beat Britain in a warm-up game in Manchester.

The Dream Team's form contrasted with bad news for tennis star Rafael Nadal, who has been forced to pull out of the Games because he is struggling with tendinitis in his knees.

The man expected to be one of the faces of the London Olympics, the world's fastest man Usain Bolt, is also struggling with fitness.

The reigning Olympic 100 metres and 200 metres champion has been given a new orthopaedic bed at the Jamaica team's training base in Birmingham, central England, to ensure a longstanding back problem does not flare up.

Bolt will not compete at a Diamond League meeting in Monaco on Friday after complaining of tightness in his hamstring in the aftermath of his defeat by compatriot Yohan Blake at the Jamaican Olympic trials last month. - Agence France-Presse