A flaming golden torch symbolising the spirit of the Olympics was held aloft at Land's End today as it began its 70-day journey.
The ceremony came the morning after the Olympic Flame landed on British soil at RNAS Culdrose, near Helston, in a specially chartered flight, BA2012.
International footballer and former England captain David Beckham was on board the golden-liveried plane, named Firefly, along with Lord Coe, former Falmouth MP and chairman of the London Games organising committee, and Princess Anne.
Captain William Entwhistle, commander of RNAS Culdrose, said the event was a unique moment in the air station's distinguished history.
"We have been here since 1947. Our association with Cornwall has been a long and happy one and there have been many important moments.
"But I can't think of anything quite like this."
He added: "It is a unique event and we are privileged to be part of it."
Last night, the flame was kept in Culdrose's wardroom, the officers' mess.
It has been revealed that four flames were kept alight – to guard against any unforeseen events accidently extinguishing it.
The four flames – each in a modern version of Humphry Davy lamps, the safety lantern invented for miners by the Penzance-born scientist – were placed in separate "cabins" guarded by four specially trained officers from the Metropolitan Police.
This morning, the Olympic Flame was taken by four crewmen from 771 Squadron to Land's End and the start of its amazing journey.
The relay, which will be accompanied by a myriad of street parties and cultural events, has been designed to pass within ten miles of 95 per cent of the UK population on its 8,000-mile journey.
It will be carried by an average of 110 people every day – using 68 different modes of transport.
In Cornwall, the first torchbearer is sailor Ben Ainslie, a former Truro School pupil, who has won three Olympic gold medals.
The torch will reach Marazion at 9am for a photo stop in front of St Michael's Mount.
It will then head towards Helston and Falmouth, arriving at the latter at 10.53am where it will be welcomed by a flotilla of Cornish pilot gigs, including the Newquay, which was built in 1812. The torch arrives in Truro at 12.27pm, Newquay at 1.11pm and the Eden Project at 4.22pm.
One of the torchbearers is 12-year-old Garvey Evans, from Foxhill, St Austell, who has just been diagnosed with cancer.
He said it was a truly exciting day: "Remember to be positive. Life is not a sprint, it's a marathon."
The flame will head to Liskeard for 6.35pm and Saltash 20 minutes later where it will then be taken over the Tamar Bridge.
It is due to arrive at the Drake Gate at Devonport Naval Base at 7.30pm, before heading to Plymouth Hoe for a civic reception at 9pm.
Tomorrow, the torch will begin its journey down Mayflower Drive at 8.07am.
One of the torchbearers is injured servicemen's champion Mark Ormrod, the Royal Marine who lost three limbs when he stepped on a Taliban landmine, who will carry the flame from Finnigan Road to Sugar Mill Business Park.
The convoy will head towards South Devon, the South Hams, Torbay and Teignbridge district, arriving in Brixton at 8.59am, Dartmouth 11.34am and Totnes 12.12pm.
At 3.42pm, the torch will arrive at Torquay, the sailing venue for the 1948 Games.
It will spend Sunday night at Exeter, then travel through North Devon on Monday, arriving in Okehampton at 8.10am.
Then it will be on to Bideford at 10.32am, Ilfracombe 12.08pm and its last port of call in Devon, at Porlock, via Lynton and Lynmouth, at 3.44pm.
The flame will then travel to Taunton where a student at Exeter Deaf Academy, Thomas Pearce, will carry the flame to the city's cricket ground on the final leg of its journey that day.
The 12-year-old's mother, Vanessa, said that the whole family were looking forward to the event.
"It is such an honour for Thomas to have been nominated," she said.
"We are so proud."
On Tuesday morning, the flame will head through Ilminster, Yeovil, Ilchester and Somerton on its way to Street and Glastonbury.