By Tom Degun

London 2012_Opening_Ceremony_-_Sir_Steve_Redgrave_March_26March 27 - The odds on Britain's greatest Olympian, Sir Steve Redgrave, igniting the Olympic Flame at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony have lengthened – after he revealed to insidethegames that he does not expect to be involved.

The 50-year-old (pictured, above), who captured a quintet of Olympic rowing gold medals in five consecutive Games, between 1984 and 2000, has been the favourite to light the cauldron since the capital won the right to stage event in 2005.

When the book first opened, Redgrave started at 3/1 but moved to 4/6 with the bookmakers as London 2012 drew closer.

However, his odds have now lengthened to even money with the news he is scheduled only to carry the Olympic Torch on July 10 – more than fortnight before the Opening Ceremony on July 27.

Redgrave fears this rules him out of contention for the top job and believes that the London 2012 organisers will not opt for a famous name to light the Olympic Flame.

"At the London 1948 Olympic Games, a relatively unknown athlete lit the Flame to start the Games," he told me, referring to John Mark, an unheralded 21-year-old 400-metre runner who set the cauldron afire.

"I think that something similar might happen this time around and I completely respect that."

However, there is a possibility that Redgrave may yet be selected after Australia's 400m icon Cathy Freeman set the precedent of carrying the Olympic Flame during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch Relay before lighting the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony.

Leading high-street bookmaker William Hill feels Redgrave's words indicate his odds for lighting the Flame should lengthen.

"Sir Steve's recent comments would suggest he has not been approached to light the torch and our punters have been largely ignoring him recently," said Joe Crilly, spokesman for William Hill.

"Saying this, however, he remains the stand-out candidate and for this reason is still favourite."

The change has caused the odds on legend Sir Roger Bannister to be slashed from 33/1 to 3/1, leaving the 83-year-old as second favourite.

When asked about lighting the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremony, Bannister was typically modest.

"Oh, I think not," he said.

"I think there are other figures far more deserving."

However, there are many who feel he is very much deserving – accounting for his status with the bookies.

Dame Kelly Holmes is next at 5/1 ahead of former decathlete Daley Thompson at 12/1, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy at 14/1; footballer David Beckham and diver Tom Daley are both 16/1.

Bannister (pictured, below) shot to global stardom when he became the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, in Oxford on May 6, 1954.

London 2012_Opening_Ceremony_-_Sir_Roger_Bannister_March_26
Less well known, however, is how he helped London save face at the 1948 Olympics, the last time the capital hosted the Games.

Then, Bannister served as a teenage assistant to the Team GB leader; just prior to the Opening Ceremony at Wembley Stadium it was discovered the only team without a flag to march behind was Britain.

Bannister was duly despatched to commandeer an army jeep, find the commandant's car with a British flag inside and break the windows to take it.

An army sergeant actually had to restrain a policeman from arresting him, but Bannister managed to deliver the flag back just in time...

Four years later, in 1952 at Helsinki, he competed at his only Olympic Games, but despite being the overwhelming gold-medal favourite in the 1500 metres finished fourth and out of the medals.

That was caused by a poor training regime highlighted by the fact that Bannister did not realise there was semi-final before the final.

After disappointment at those Games, Bannister set himself the new goal of becoming the first man to run a mile in under four minutes – and he achieved the goal two years later at Iffley Road Track in Oxford when he stopped the clock in 3min 59.4sec.

He later retired to concentrate solely on his career as a neurologist but his legendary track achievement served to earn him numerous accolades in the years since.

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