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Olympic torchbearers race to cash in

Tal Cohen / EPA

Triple Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Ben Ainslie carries the flame as the first torchbearer of the torch relay around Britain on Saturday.

LONDON -- The sweatsuit comes off and the business hat goes on when it comes to many of those participating in the Olympic torch relay. 

The historic ritual only started Saturday, but by Sunday there were already at least eight torches being auctioned on eBay with offers in excess of $170,000, although perhaps not all the bids were genuine. 


One volunteer is yet to get hold of the torch but has already put his up for sale. 

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At this rate we can expect plenty more. Eight thousand bearers are taking part in the relay as the flame travels 8,000 miles around Great Britain. Volunteers are allowed to keep their torch if they pay $340. This is where some have spotted the value – the torches cost $780 to produce, the Olympic organizers having paid the difference. 

So what do you get for your money? The torches are made of aluminum alloy with a gold effect giving them that all-important shimmer. 

Hand-welded, they have 8,000 holes.  But, at 31 inches it’s a little long for some mantelpieces. 

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Andrew Bell was among those deciding to sell, according to the Sun on Sunday newspaper.

“I understand some people may find the idea of selling an Olympic torch offensive,” the 31-year-old from Cornwall, who was among the first carriers, told the paper

“But we could genuinely use the money,” he added, according to the newspaper. 

 A spokeswoman for LOCOG, the Olympic organizing committee, seemed relaxed about the moneymaking scheme.

 “They are the torchbearers’ property.” She told NBC News. “We just hope they go to a good home.”

 So it seems the Olympics and commercialism go hand-in-hand.

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