Who will light the Olympic cauldron? Odds favor Queen Elizabeth or Roger Bannister

Chris Chase

The biggest mystery of the Olympics will be revealed just before midnight Friday when the Olympic cauldron will be lit in London. Speculation on the identity of the final torchbearer began almost immediately after the IOC announced the Games would return to London. In the final hours before the Olympics get underway, odds have dramatically shifted. Who will light carry the final Olympic flame? Fourth-Place Medal investigates. (Odds from Sky Bet.)

Queen Elizabeth II: 5/1

The odds on the Queen have increased sharply in the hours before the Opening Ceremony. The 86-year-old monarch, in the midst of celebrating her diamond jubilee, dropped from 25/1 to 5/1 overnight.

Roger Bannister: 1/1

A prominent British bookmaker suspended torchbearer betting on Thursday after a surge in wagers on Bannister, the man who broke the four-minute mile barrier in 1954. Over 98 percent of the bets that came into William Hill were for the 83-year-old living legend. That helped drop the odds on Bannister to even. He had been 33/1 in June. Not that anyone will be getting rich off these wagers: When inside information can shift a market like this, bookmakers tend to limit the amount that an individual can bet.

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Steve Redgrave: 3/2

Redgrave won five consecutive Olympic golds in rowing and is considered one of the biggest sporting stars in Great Britain. He's been the odds-on favorite since it was first announced that London would host the Olympics and has remained near the top of many lists ever since. That air of inevitability could hurt Redgrave. Danny Boyle likes to be unconventional and the most conventional choice may have a disadvantage. Then again, a Redgrave lighting doesn't have to be predictable. With Boyle at the helm, a simple torch lighting (think Muhammad Ali) may be off the table. Thinking along those lines, can't you just picture Redgrave rowing down the Thames and lighting the flame from his boat?

David Beckham: 7/1

You'd be better off betting on Henry VIII to light the cauldron. Beckham isn't lighting it. There are no certainties in life, but this is pretty close.

[ Photos: Opening Ceremony blunders of past Olympics ]

Children or normal citizens: Off

The oddsmakers we looked at didn't have odds on a regular person being the final torchbearer. We think it's a possibility, however slim. Early word says Boyle's Ceremony will be an egalitarian tribute to England. There are nods to the industrial revolution and nurses and war efforts. What better way to cap it all off than by having children or citizens of varying backgrounds light the cauldron together?

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