Olympic torch's whistle-stop Scottish tour

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IT will travel more than 8,000 miles around the world from China before reaching its final destination in the Olympic Stadium in London.

Now organisers of the Games have unveiled the route the iconic Olympic torch will take through Scotland ahead of next summer's Olympic Games.

Celebrations are planned in the five Scottish cities where the torch relay will stop overnight, while residents of three island communities - on Orkney, Shetland and the Isle of Lewis - will also get a chance to see the procession.

Evening parties featuring live music and Olympic-themed festivities will be held in Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh, funded by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog).

The exact route the torch will take through Scotland has not yet been finalised, but organisers of the Games claim that 95 per cent of the UK population live within an hour of the torch route. It is thought that almost all of Scotland's 32 local authority areas are likely to be involved - either as hosts of the torch procession, or teamed up with an adjoining area to join in the celebrations.

Nominations opened yesterday to recruit the 8,000 people UK-wide who will be granted the role of torch bearers - including an estimated 600 Scots.

First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed yesterday's announcement. "The Scottish leg of the Olympic Torch relay will highlight the best of our country," he said.

"It is an exciting milestone on the road to London 2012 and beyond to our own Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow in 2014."

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However, it emerged yesterday that the torch will spend less time travelling throughout the whole of Scotland than it will on the streets of London, where those attending the Games will be able to see it.

Only six days of the torch's 70-day procession through the UK will be spent north of the Border - despite Scotland making up a third of Britain's landmass.

It will, however, make six overnight stops - totalling seven days - in London, before reaching its final destination at the Olympic Stadium on 27 July, 2012.

Locog is to fund the cost of the entertainment in each overnight location on the route, as well as the policing - but each individual local authority will need to find the money for stewarding the public events.

Despite Scotland's role in the torch procession, only one of the 26 different sports included in the Olympics - football - will be played in Scotland, where just eight matches will take place at Glasgow's Hampden Park.

It was also revealed last summer that two countries - Namibia and Zambia - are to hold their training camps north of the Border, bringing around 25 athletes between them to Scotland ahead of the Games.

A recruitment drive to find volunteers to help out at the Games was held in Scotland earlier this month, with a number of Scots likely to be selected from 2,000 interviewees to help man the event. The drive to find around 100,000 volunteers, who will make up around half of the total number of staff at the Games, was heralded as the biggest ever peacetime recruitment process held in Britain.

A second recruitment drive was launched yesterday to pinpoint the people who will help carry the torch around Britain.

Locog is to find 2,012 of the 8,000 torch bearers, with half of the total number of places expected to go to people aged between 12 and 24 who are considered to be leading lights in their local communities. The remaining torchbearer places will be allocated mainly by the Games's "presenting partners" - Coca-Cola, Bank of Scotland and Samsung. They will start their own recruitment drives next month.The Scottish winners of the Locog allocation, which will remain open for the next six weeks, are to be decided by a local panel of judges. Former athletics champion Sebastian Coe, chair of Locog, added: "The Olympic flame will shine a light right across Scotland and we are thrilled to announce the first eight Scotland stops today that range from larger evening celebrations to exciting island visits."

Locog yesterday opted to use Scotland rugby star Chris Paterson to launch the torch route north of the Border, alongside Locog chief executive Paul Deighton - despite the fact that rugby will not be played at the 2012 Games. Paterson himself admitted that his involvement was unexpected, but said he was proud to have been asked.

"I was surprised," he said yesterday at the official launch event for Scotland on Edinburgh's Calton Hill. "But I was absolutely flattered. If I can help out in any way that is great." Rugby Sevens is due to become part of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

A separate launch ceremony was held yesterday in Land's End, where the torch relay will begin on 19 May, 2012 - featuring Olympic triple jumper Jonathan Edwards and 15-year-old schoolgirl Mhairi Gifford from Shetland.