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David Beckham to have role in London Olympics opening ceremony

By Chris Murphy, CNN
July 24, 2012 -- Updated 2155 GMT (0555 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Beckham tells CNN he will have a role in the opening ceremony of the Olympics
  • The soccer star says his role in Friday's glittering ceremony will involve a flame
  • Beckham played a crucial part in securing the Olympic Games for London
  • The 37-year-old says he wants Team USA to do well in the Games as well as Team GB

(CNN) -- He's one of the poster boys of the London Olympics, which is being staged a few miles down the road from where he grew up, and soccer star David Beckham has confirmed to CNN he will have a role in Friday's glittering opening ceremony.

The L.A. Galaxy midfielder, who has also played for Real Madrid and Manchester United, has played a pivotal role in bringing the Games to his hometown but was controversially omitted from Team GB's football squad last month.

Beckham was on hand to welcome the Olympic torch to the English capital from Athens before it embarked on a 70-day tour around the UK but has ruled out the possibility of lighting the flame inside the Stadium, saying that honor should be bestowed upon a person who has competed at the Games.

The 37-year-old told CNN World Sport that he would play a cameo role in Friday's ceremony to officially open the Olympics, which is due to be watched by billions around the globe, but was tight lipped when asked what his part in film director Danny Boyle's show would entail.

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"No, I'm not allowed to," he said. "But it's exciting, I'm excited to be part of such a huge occasion for our country and for everybody involved in these Games.

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"It's exciting to have the Olympic Games in the East End of London and for myself to be part of that, I'm very honored."

Beckham confirmed that his role would not include children, animals or footballs, but when asked if a flame might be involved he replied: "I think I might have one."

The former England star, who has 115 caps for his country, was part of London's bid team that won the right to stage the biggest sporting spectacle on earth back in 2005 and has worked closely with Games organizers since.

Beckham was born in Leytonstone, just three miles from the site of the Olympic Stadium, and said anticipation was building as London prepares to present to the world an event that has been seven long years in the planning.

"It was seven years when this whole process started and being part of bringing the Games to a part of London where I grew up, its exciting to see everything come together," he added.

"I was at the stadium yesterday -- I've not been there for a few months -- and to see the change that has happened and also to see the change that's happened around the area, it's really incredible.

"You can feel the atmosphere building around the stadium now, it's great to see the athletes arrive and the interest become bigger."

Beckham had been preparing to participate in the Games, as one of three players over the age of 23 allowed in Team GB's football squad, but he was controversially left out by coach Stuart Pearce.

Though he missed out on competing, Beckham says he will try and take his family to as many events as possible, despite trying to juggle his commitments back in America with the Galaxy.

He also implored the whole of the United Kingdom to get behind their athletes as they attempt to thrive under the pressure of performing in front of what is sure to be a partisan home crowd.

"I'm interested in all the GB athletes," he said. "I think it's important for us to support every one of them. It's such a huge sporting occasion -- we've got so much talent in our country it's exciting to have so much on display.

"Obviously, I've got a busy week but there will be a few events I'm hoping to get to and take my kids down to so it will be fun, hopefully."

Since Beckham left Manchester United in 2003 he has been based away from the UK, winning a Spanish League title in the last of his four seasons with Real Madrid before moving to the Galaxy in 2007.

And though he says his family have been warmly welcomed by the public in the United States since they made the move across the Atlantic, there is no doubt who the Beckham household will be rooting for to win more medals.

I'm excited to be part of such a huge occasion for our country and for everybody involved in these Games
David Beckham

"Oh no, (my family's) loyalty obviously lies with Team GB but they'll still be supporting the U.S. team because we've lived there now for six years, we've been bought in by the American public and people in L.A."

Beckham faces a hectic schedule during the Games, none more so than this week where he will return to the States from London to play for the MLS All-Stars against European Champions League winners Chelsea before jetting back for Friday's opening ceremony.

But it is a price he is willing to pay to be involved in both showpiece occasions.

"It is what it is," he said. "It's my life, I wouldn't change it or swap it for anything. Obviously, I didn't think I was going to be able to make the MLS All-Stars game but fortunately I can fly over, fly in and fly out.

"It's exciting because I'm very proud to be involved in the All-Star game and to be picked again this year. Coming up against Chelsea, the European Cup winners, it's an exciting thing to be involved in."

One of his commitments in the build up to the Games was to attend an event with former world heavyweight boxing champion, and Olympic gold medallist, Muhammad Ali, a man he regards as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.

"I don't think there is a bigger sporting icon in the history of sport than Muhammad Ali," he explained.

"He stood for so many amazing things and did so many amazing things, his whole career and his whole life was about survival whether it was boxing, whether it was his life in general, whether it was outside of the ring, it was always about survival and for me he's the most amazing sportsman I've ever met."

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