Prince William and his wife Catherine welcomed the Olympic flame to Buckingham Palace on Thursday as 60 000 people partied in Hyde Park to mark the penultimate day of its marathon journey around Britain.
Inset: Britain's Prince William, along with his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry watch as Olympic torchbearer Wai-Ming Lee hands over the flame to John Hulse (right) during a visit to Buckingham Palace in London (Photo: Reuters)
The excitement on the eve of the Games mounted as a delighted William and his wife and his brother Prince Harry applauded as the torch was brought into the palace grounds, with thousands of fans cheering outside the gates.
The flame is touring some of London's best-known landmarks, carried by movie stars, sporting heroes and even UN chief Ban Ki-moon, before it finally makes its dramatic entrance at the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony.
The royals all wore Team Great Britain T-shirts as the flame stopped at the palace on its way to Hyde Park, where a deafening roar from the crowd greeted the torch before a special concert in its honour.
London's Mayor Boris Johnson whipped them up, telling them “Olympo-mania” was about to go off the scale.
“People are coming from around the world and they're seeing us and they're seeing the greatest city on Earth,” he said.
Johnson said the British team would win “more gold, silver and bronze medals than you need to bail out Greece and Spain together!”
Millions of Londoners have come out onto the streets over the past week to show their support as the pre-Games excitement builds.
A total of 173 torchbearers carried the flame on a journey around London's attractions on Thursday, as it nears the end of its 70-day, 12 875km journey around Britain.
They included Indian movie star Amitabh Bachchan, the United Nations secretary general and Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.
At Buckingham Palace, Wai Ming-Lee, 38, who volunteers with a disaster mapping charity, brought the flame into the palace grounds, and lit the torch of 56-year-old mountain rescue volunteer John Hulse in front of the royals.
The flame was earlier carried past the Houses of Parliament, while Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the relay to his Downing Street office.
Workers in London's City financial heartland poured out onto the streets to greet the flame.
Hundreds gathered outside St Paul's Cathedral, while others leaned out of their office windows waving British flags.
“The whole office is here. And if you knew how hard we work, it's a big deal”, said Ryan, 20.
At St Paul's, “we talk a lot about peace”, said Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, and the flame coming to visit “is an opportunity to bring the nation together”, he told reporters.
Kevin Craig, who helps a charity which provides limbs to children in developing countries, brought the flame to the cathedral.
“Apart from meeting my wonderful wife and the birth of my children, it was the most amazing time in my life,” he said.
The flame was then carried across the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames by British Paralympic basketball bronze medallist Ade Adepitan.
At the BBC's headquarters in west London, Antoine de Navacelle - the great grand-nephew of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics - exchanged the flame at the site of the finish line of the 1908 London Games' White City stadium.
How the flame will be lit in the Olympic Stadium is a closely-guarded secret. - Sapa-AFP