Zara Phillips carries Olympic torch on horseback

May 23, 2012 - 4:39 PM
Britain London 2012 Torch

This photograph made available by LOCOG shows Britain's Queens Elizabeth's grand-daughter Zara Phillips carrying the Olympic Flame at the end of day 5 of the torch relay at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham England, Wednesday May 23, 2012. The Olympic torch relay is on its fifth day as it traverses Britain ahead of the July 27 opening of the London Games. Phillips has represented Britain in the 3-day-event. (AP Photo/Joe Giddens/LOCOG)

LONDON (AP) — Former world equestrian champion Zara Phillips carried the Olympic torch on horseback across the storied Cheltenham racecourse on Wednesday, as thousands of screaming fans watched her light the Olympic cauldron.

More than 16,500 people, including her mother the Princess Anne, were gathered on the famous course's turf to see Phillips trot past the finishing post to the theme from the 1981 film, "Chariots of Fire."

Phillips, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was riding Toytown — the horse that nearly helped her win a berth for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Speaking after the ceremony, the 31-year-old royal said she was beginning to feel the torch's weight.

"It's not too heavy when you pick it up, but if you're carrying it for a little while you can feel a little burn," she said.

Philips, who's still hoping to compete in London 2012, was closed out the fifth day of the 70-day torch relay, which has so far taken the flame across southwest England.

At the end of each day, the torch is used to light a cauldron that holds the flame until the relay continues.

Earlier Wednesday thousands of fans mobbed the relay route when Chelsea star Didier Drogba took the torch.

Many fans, some wearing Chelsea blue jerseys, cheered as their soccer (football) hero ran through the center of Swindon on Wednesday. The 34-year-old Ivory Coast striker waved as he trotted along with the torch.

Drogba announced on Tuesday that he was quitting Chelsea, just days after scoring the winning penalty shot in the club's dramatic Champion's League final win over Bayern Munich. He is pursuing a career elsewhere.

"I think winning the game was the key. Not me scoring the penalty," he told the BBC. "Winning the game was the turning point. That's why I have decided to say goodbye."

The British media have reported that Drogba's next move will take him to China, but he hasn't confirmed that.

"I hope everyone will understand," Drogba said. "Everything I did was for the fans, and I hope they understand."

The relay finishes at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27.