With the exception of the deservedly famous Barcelona torch-lighting-by-flaming-arrow*, the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron seems to inevitably fall to the country's most famous, most inspirational athletes. Think Muhammad Ali in Atlanta, Wayne Gretzky in Vancouver, Cathy Freeman in Sydney. And what British athlete comes closer to the stature of those greats in today's U.K. than David Beckham?
The answer is probably "no one," but all the same, Beckham told reporters Thursday that he has no interest in lighting the cauldron at the lavish July 27 opening ceremonies. His reasoning is simple: he's never actually competed in the Olympics.
"I've always said, lighting the torch in the stadium is something that should be done by an Olympian," Beckham was quoted as sayng in the London Daily Mail, "[someone] who has done incredible things for our country and won gold medals."
Many expected Beckham to have the opportunity to win a gold medal in these Olympics, but he was not selected to Great Britain's 18-man roster by manager Stuart Pearce, who opted for current Premier League stars Ryan Giggs, Micah Richards, and Craig Bellamy instead as his three over-age "wild card" players. With this the first opportunity any British soccer player has had to compete in the Olympics since 1960 -- for details on why that's the case, see our men's soccer tournament preview -- Beckham didn't hide his disappointment at not being named to the team.
"Obviously, all the talk of me possibly performing in the Olympics, it would have been a very proud moment for me," Beckham said. "Everyone knows how proud I am of representing my country and to do it in my home town on such a big stage would have been incredible so, of course, I'm disappointed, but life goes on."
"My family are healthy, I'm pretty healthy, so at the end of the day, I'll be there to support the Great Britain team."
Beckham will likely do much more than that, though. Per the Daily Mail, even if Beckham isn't going to light the cauldron, "he will almost certainly have another role, such as running with the torch in the lead-up to the lighting." (The Mail reports that gold-medal winning decathlete Daley Thompson and five-time gold medalist rower Steve Redgrave are the front-runners for the honor.)
Maybe it's not what Beckham or his legions of fans would prefer. But it's still not a bad consolation prize.
*Still the greatest torch-lighting ever, right? Right. Here's the video, just because: